Monday, May 5, 2008

Covering the 'Ace of Spades' at Crunch Time

Back in the good old days -- on April 10th before the Playoffs began -- Doc Rivers joked on WEEI that:
Whatever team has the 'Ace of Spades' is a tough team to play...meaning THE single best player in the series.(8:00 mark)
But what seemed like light banter in early April had become a gaping hole by May 1st, as the Celtics had a difficult time controlling a "Ace of Hearts" (a.k.a. Joe Johnson) in the Atlanta series.

Now, as the Cleveland series begins, the Cs have the challenge of neutralizing the single best player in the NBA: LeBron. A true "Ace of Spades."

Although Rivers and his staff will undoubtedly be stressing a team approach -- albeit with a double team undoubtedly part of the mix -- the fact is that whether its Paul Pierce or James Posey (the two most likely defensive matchups, given the current roster), LBJ has a huge physical (size and/or speed) advantage. In addition, with Pierce there is the added problem of losing his scoring, both because of fatigue and/or fouls, as occurred at the end of Game Six with Atlanta.

The other options: Ray or Tony Allen? Ray looked overmatched one-on-one against Johnson, and Tony played a total of 27 minutes in 6 games (one DNP-CD) against the Hawks.

So here's an unsolicited suggestion: rather than 'run' Garnett at LBJ on the double at crunch time, let KG play him. Not all the time, and not for 48 minutes.

But at crunch time. At the end of the game. When everyone in the building knows that LBJ will get the ball.

Can Garnett defend 25 feet from the basket? Will LeBron blow by him and get to the rim? Or will LBJ draw the other defenders and find an open man?

All of these are legitimate questions. But right now the Cs need answers. And throwing the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year on the league's best scorer (with all respect to Kobe) -- with a trip to the Conference finals on the line -- may be just what the Doc(tor) ordered.

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