As an aside, I find the way the game is called very odd these days when it comes to giving fouls on dribble drives. Strips of the ball are almost never fouls anymore. It’s like either nobody can protect the rock anymore or every defender has magic hand-eye coordination and gets clean swipes almost every time. In the 90s when it was close or the ref wasn’t sure, he’d whistle that contact. Back then it was annoying the other way because so often they’d call anticipatory fouls when the defender even moved to try to strip the ball (on drives that is, not on post-ups where teams like the Jazz and Rockets hacked away with impunity). Today the foul that’s called when a dribbler is coming at the rim is hand contact on the body, which was actually legal in the early 90s and completely ignored in the late 90s. I guess it’s not better or worse that refs are lenient to the defense on strip of the ball attempts, but it’s very different.
Back to tonight’s game: I didn’t think either team played very well. They both missed a ton of open shots and botched lay-ups. Probably nerves and fatigue played a hand, but I give the defenses credit as well. They really did a good job taking away each others’ first and second options in this game, unlike game 6 when the Phili guards got whatever they wanted. The teams stayed physical and chased each-others’ scorers off pick and roll plays very well. I felt like Boston let the Sixers off the hook a little bit by not working Garnett in the post more. When they did try to get him the ball down on the block it was with no weakside action or set-up play to get him easier catches. Now some of that is of course Garnett, who has never really been one to demand a lot of touches in the paint, but against the much smaller Brand, KG had the advantage.KG needs to get them paint points against Miami, especially if they put LeBron on him when the Heat go small. Bron is a great defender, but he’s too short to contest Garnett’s hook shot or his turnaround jumper. Even Haslem is too small to really impact KG’s release. Rondo needs to absolutely dominate Chalmers. Defensively the Celts will pack the paint and overload the strong side on pick and rolls like they always do. This series will probably be just like the Heat vs. Celtics series last year. LeBron and Wade will kill it in transition, and if they don’t hit tough shots, they will probably have limited impact in the half court. Not having Bradley to defend Wade is going to be really rough through. On the other end the Heat’s great scramble and recover defense will really cut down on open looks for the Boston role players who, along with a hobbled Ray Allen, need to be set up for their shots. James has basically shut down Pierce the last couple years, and Paul’s hurt on top of it. It’ll be tough for Boston if KG and Rajon don’t play great.
Stat-note: Rondo is now only two playoff triple doubles behind Jason Kidd for most among active players.