6.05.2008

Beware the Exaggeration

The Lakers are the better offensive team and the Celtics are the better defensive team. Beyond this, take every statement uttered about either team with a grain of salt.

Exaggeration #1:

The Lakers are the best passing team since Showtime, and probably the best passing team since Phil Jackson was playing for the New York Knicks in the early 1970s.

Reality:

The Lakers are averaging 21 assists per game in the playoffs, the same as the 2008 Boston Celtics are averaging in the playoffs. The 2008 Lakers averaged 24 assists per game during the regular season, and you need go back no further than the 1986 Celtics to find a team that averaged more, way more, assists per game at 29. I suspect Steve Nash’s Suns and Magic Johnson’s Lakers might have a skin in the game, too.

Exaggeration #2:

The Boston Celtics offense is too inefficient to win the championship because it turns the ball over too much.

Reality:

The 2008 Boston Celtics are averaging 12 turnovers per game in the playoffs, while “the greatest offense in the last 30 years” (the 2008 Los Angeles Lakers) is averaging 13 turnovers per game.

Exaggeration #3:

Lamar Odom and Pao Gasol clean the glass and will continue to do so against the Celtics

Reality:

If Odom and Gasol control the boards in the Finals, it will be a vast deviation from the status quo, where the Lakers were outrebounded 43.9 to 40.5 in the first three series. Meanwhile, the Celtics are outrebounding their opponents by a 39.4 to 36.1 margin.

Exaggeration #4:

The Lakers have yawned and laughed their way to the Finals while the Boston Celtics have struggled mightily.

Reality:

True, the Boston Celtics have played more games than the Lakers. But the Lakers average margin of victory is 5.5 points while the Celtics average margin of victory is 4.3 points.

Exaggeration #5:

It will be like lay-up practice for the Celtics offense against the weak Lakers defense

Reality:

It is unlikely that the Lakers defense will be as stingy as either the Cav’s or Pistons’. It is also true that the Lakers defense ranked 19th in the league in points-per-game allowed. However, Lakers opponents are shooting only .433 against them (.322 from three), while Celtics opponents are shooting .422 against them (.321 from three). The Lakers force 13 turnovers per game, while he Celtics force 14. The Celtics have the better defense, but I’m not sure the difference is the size of the Atlantic Ocean.

Bottom line:

The games will be decided by heart, energy, execution, and composure under fire. More importantly, the games will be decided by rebounding, defense, and dogged determination. On paper, the Celtics have the advantage on the rebounding and defensive fronts.

But stats aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, until those stats are replicated on court over the course of a series.

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