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May 9, 2009
Playoff Prospectus
Very Offensive

by Kevin Pelton

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Orlando 117, Boston 96 (Orlando leads series 2-1)
Pace: 94.7
Offensive Rating: Orlando 124.6, Boston 100.6

This was the performance the Orlando Magic had been waiting to get from Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. The standout pair of forwards has been relatively quiet since hobbling into the postseason battling nagging injuries, but Game Three was a showcase for their all-around skills. Lewis was equally adept playing in the post or on the perimeter, while Turkoglu took on the role of point guard in the fourth quarter and helped the Magic put the Boston Celtics away. Lewis and Turkoglu combined for 52 points on 17-for-29 shooting as Orlando shot 59.1 percent from the field and 9-for-18 from three-point range in putting up 117 points in 94 possessions. Nice.

With Brian Scalabrine again seeing extended action at power forward--this time more because Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins spent most of the night in foul trouble than due to matchups--Stan Van Gundy adjusted to put Lewis in the post more frequently. He responded, getting to the free-throw line eight times and hitting his usual three-pointers (three of them) to add punch to a 9-for-17 shooting night.

The Magic scarcely missed Rafer Alston, suspended by the league for this game after slapping Eddie House in Game Two. Anthony Johnson came in and played solid, inspired basketball. Johnson had 13 points on eight shooting possessions and committed just two turnovers in 28 minutes. The second of those two turnovers proved Johnson's undoing. Upset Van Gundy blamed him for a sloppy pass, he argued vehemently that the fault lay with Courtney Lee, on the receiving end of the pass.

After being separated from Van Gundy, Johnson sat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. Orlando didn't miss a beat then, either. Lee defended the point, while Turkoglu served as playmaker. The Magic repeatedly ran the pick-and-roll initiated by Turkoglu and saw him score 11 points in the quarter as Orlando put up 39 as a team to squelch a Boston comeback attempt.

The Celtics have to be more than a little concerned about their offense, which was a two-man affair in Game Three: Eddie House and Paul Pierce. House remains in an alternate dimension where the basket is much larger than it is here in our world. He was 6-for-7 last night for 15 points off the bench, and for all his limitations Doc Rivers might have to carve out a larger role for him in Game Four--especially if Ray Allen continues to struggle. Allen missed all five of his three-point attempts and shot 3-for-13.

Besides House, the best offense Boston found was spreading the floor and getting the ball to Pierce in isolation settings--in other words, the Celtics' usual end-game strategy. Pierce got to the free-throw line time and again in the second half, shooting 14 in all and making every single one. That was enough to get Boston back in the game in the early fourth quarter and spark memories of Game One. The Celtics could not get enough stops to maintain the run.

While Lewis was able to exploit his matchup with Scalabrine, Boston was still -4 in Scalabrine's 25 minutes of action as compared to -13 with Davis and a terrible -20 in Perkins' 29 minutes. So the concern about foul trouble, as long as it doesn't force Rivers to go even deeper into his bench for Mikki Moore, may be overstated. Dwight Howard's foul trouble also wasn't much of a problem for Orlando. Marcin Gortat, who continues to enhance his standing as a free agent every time he gets a chance to play, stepped in and had seven points on 3-for-3 shooting in his 20 minutes of action.

The Magic gets Alston back for Sunday's Game Four, and should end up benefitting from his absence. Turkoglu got going in his role as backup point guard, and Van Gundy will want to keep having him play aggressively out of pick-and-roll plays. Meanwhile, Lee can offer help defending Rajon Rondo. Sunday will be essentially a must-win game for Boston, and Orlando enters the game in excellent position.

L.A. Lakers 108, Houston 94 (L.A. Lakers lead series 2-1)
Pace: 89.0
Offensive Ratings: L.A. Lakers 121.6, Houston 105.3

Speaking of not missing suspended point guards, with Derek Fisher watching (and Tweeting) from his hotel room, the Los Angeles Lakers went on the road and put up 108 points in 89 possessions against a stout Houston Rockets defense. Give Jordan Farmar a lot of credit. Benched for the first round of the playoffs and having played spot minutes in this series, Farmar stepped into the starting lineup in place of Fisher. He did everything the Lakers could want, scoring 12 points, handing out seven assists, grabbing five rebounds and turning the ball over a solitary time in 33 minutes. With Shannon Brown scoring eight points off the bench, the Lakers got above-average production from the position.

As a team, the Lakers turned it over just six times, and that starts with the point guards. Their sure-handed play and phenomenal three-point shooting (11 makes in 20 attempts) helped Los Angeles to an impressive offensive performance even on a night where Shane Battier could in fact defend Kobe Bryant. Bryant was hot from downtown, making four threes, and Trevor Ariza added thee as all five Lakers starters scored double-figures.

From the Rockets' perspective, the final offensive numbers were certainly better than their attack looked for lengthy stretches of the second half. After Yao Ming scored 14 points in the first half, Yao had a tough time getting the ball in the second half because of a combination of the Lakers' quick double-teams and a general reticence from Houston's perimeter players to look his direction. Most guilty was Ron Artest, who decided to call his own number 23 times, including eight three-point attempts. Those difficult shots did not fall so often as they did in Games One and Two, and Artest needed 29 possessions to score his 25 points, handing out just one assist.

Where Yao was able to be a factor in the fourth quarter was on the offensive glass. He had six offensive boards in the game and the Rockets 19 as a team, helping prop up the offensive efficiency despite 41.7 percent shooting and 17 turnovers.

Artest was the worst offender on the Houston roster in terms of stifling the offense, but he certainly wasn't alone. Von Wafer got up 10 shots in his 17 minutes of action and made just two of them. Point guard Aaron Brooks, meanwhile, wasn't necessarily looking for his own shot but failed to put the ball in the hands of the right teammates. He somehow had a single assist in 27 minutes. Facilitation for the starting five was thus left to Battier, who had seven assists and eight rebounds. It will be forgotten, but Battier also did a defensive number on Bryant. When the Lakers' star hit five of his first six shots, it looked like potentially more of the same from Game Two. The rest of the way, Bryant shot 6-for-22.

Besides the point guards, the Lakers also got a big boost from their bench, which played the Rockets' reserves even after getting torched in L.A. Actually, Kyle Lowry and Carl Landry played pretty well, but this time it did not translate into a lot of success on the scoreboard. Andrew Bynum had his best game in a while, hitting both shots he took, grabbing five rebounds and blocking a couple of shots in his 12 minutes of work.

Before Houston gets to thinking about adjustments for Game Four, Yao's health is a concern as large as his 7'6" stature. He was obviously hobbled during the fourth quarter, but stubbornly refused to consider leaving the game before Rick Adelman finally pulled him in the final minute. Yao will undergo tests tomorrow to determine his status. If Yao sits, everything else is out the window, but a few personnel tweaks could help the Rockets.

For one, Adelman can't forget about Chuck Hayes. Granted, Houston needed scoring in the second half, and that's not Hayes' game. But Hayes has been outstanding in this series, and he saw a mere seven minutes of action. Second, I think it's time to consider giving Brent Barry some extended run like he got in Game One. Barry was +3 in his six minutes of action in that game, and he's the Rockets best entry passer--something that is critical if Yao is being taken out of the offense as he was last night. When the Lakers are overloading, Houston can do a better job of working the ball back to the weak side and occupying the help defense with Luis Scola instead of driving into the teeth of a Lakers defense designed to cut off penetration.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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