Lost amid the hysteria of Derrick Rose's injury in round one was a significant change Doug Collins made prior to game two. If you recall, Rose didn't really kill the Sixers in that opening loss, he scored an inefficient 23 points. Rip Hamilton and Kyle Korver killed the Sixers by running through a series of screens. That play didn't hurt the Sixers again after the first game. The Sixers adjustments made Kyle Korver a complete non-factor and had Rip looking elsewhere for offensive opportunities. What adjustments will we see tonight?
There's one really easy adjustment for Collins to make. Can the ridiculously small lineups immediately. He used one lineup with Thad at the five and two lineups with Meeks at the three with disastrous results. They were -11 with those lineups in the first half. I believe these lineups were a reaction to the Rondo, Allen, Bradley, Pierce, Garnett lineup Boston used. My only advice is to find another counter when Boston goes that small. Stick with either Hawes, Lavoy or Brand at the five, use Iguodala or Thad at the four.
Under the heading, "Things Collins can't control" I'd put Jrue's shooting at the top of the list. If he hits half of his wide open threes, the Sixers win. The same goes for Brand's bread-and-butter jumpers from fifteen feet. There's not much to be done about poor shooting from those guys, either you stick with them until they start hitting, or you go with someone else. The former seems like the best bet, considering the performance of Thad and Lou.
When we're talking about things to change, first we need to look at what worked well for Boston. That list pretty much begins and ends with Kevin Garnett. KG scored 29 points on 20 shots, and he did it basically in two different ways. The first was the pick-and-pop with Rondo. For the most part, the Sixers were consistent in how they defended this. The big would give the small some help initially, to prevent Rondo from turning the corner. This is where Boston does things differently than most teams. The screener, Garnett in this case, doesn't immediately roll or flare out for the pop opportunity, he kind of stays in the general area. This gives the big the impression that he's still in touch w/ his man, and kind of lures him into helping on the ballhandler a little bit more than usual. At the same time, Rondo doesn't really even attempt to turn the corner, he sort of drags the play to the opposite side of the floor, without penetrating into the lane, and he keeps his dribble alive. As he slides to the other side of the floor, the defensive big is dragged along with him. This is when Garnett flares out for the pop. The pass Rondo makes for that Garnett 20-footer usually winds up going clear across the floor. There are two adjustments you can make here. The first is to go under the screen. This can be tough against the Celtics, because it's tough to get through the screen clean. Garnett sets a solid screen, and he cheats doing it. he's always moving, and it's not uncommon for him to throw a hip, shoulder, or slap to make sure the screen hits home. It's pretty much never called, either. So simply saying Turner should go under isn't going to cut it. The other option is to make Boston run the play faster than they'd like. The big guarding Garnett gives a short hedge, basically just gets in Rondo's way quickly, then gets right back to Garnett and stays with him. This should allow Turner, or Jrue to recover from the screen and get back to Rondo.
Ultimately, when you're playing the pick-and-roll with Bostson, you have to pick your poison. They run it very well, and they're experts at making adjustments on the fly. If Garnett is going to his 67% of his long twos, then you might even have to think about switching the screens, or living with Rondo turning the corner and getting into the paint. One thing I'd try when they string the play out and throw that long pass across court to Garnett is to have my defender on the baseline cheating up. Time it right and you can pick that pass off for a dunk on the other end. If you overplay it, though, you're leaving yourself wide open for a lob dunk if Rondo reads it in time.
Doc Rivers made one adjustment in the middle of game one, putting Avery Bradley on Evan Turner. If he starts the game that way, I'd like to see Turner catching the ball in a position where he can use his size to go right up with a shot, or to back Bradley down, rather than seeing him catch it facing the hoop 20 feet away where he has to use his handle against Bradley's on-the-ball defensive skills to get in position to take a shot. In the latter, I think Turner is at a big disadvantage, while I think he might be able to score in the former.
On the offensive end the Sixers generated a ton of great looks on the inside when they were able to penetrate. Often, the layup was two passes away when the initial defense was broken down. The good news is Bradley is the only perimeter defender on the Celtics who can keep a Sixer out of the lane off the drive. This is where having four guys who can handle and initiate comes into play. Bradley can't cover them all. Again, if Bradley is on Turner, put him in the post, or put him in the corner and let Jrue, Iguodala and Lou attack the rim. Boston plays a similar defensive scheme to Chicago, without enough big bodies to clog the lane. Get into the lane, make the passes, finish around the rim.
These are a few ideas off the top of my head, I'm sure both Doug Collins and Doc Rivers (and their assistants) have spent hours breaking down film from game one. Tonight, we're going to see who learned the most and was able to (a) figure out a counter and (b) get their teams prepared to execute it. I love game twos.
The tip is at 7pm on TNT. Game thread will land around 5.
What do you think the Sixers need to improve upon? And which underperforming PF do you think breaks out of it first in this series: Thad, Brand or Bass?