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News » How does this Big Three stack up to previous trios? 2008-06-03


How does this Big Three stack up to previous trios? 2008-06-03


How does this Big Three stack up to previous trios? 2008-06-03
There's no question that Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce constitute a trio of certified Grade-A players.

At first glance, this situation should be an unmitigated delight for Doc Rivers. The problem, though, is determining exactly how to utilize his three stars, i.e., which of them should be the gold-standard, which is the silver, and which one takes home the bronze.

Before investigating Rivers' bittersweet dilemma, let's take a look at how several previous championship teams dealt with similar situations. For the sake of brevity, the list is reduced to title-winning squads that fielded at least three future Hall-of-Famers.

Minneapolis Lakers (1949-50, 1952-54)

2008 NBA Finals


Thursday's Game 1

  • Pierce, Celtics hold off Lakers

Analysis

  • Kriegel: Kobe needs to be like Mike
  • Boeck: West revisits the rivalry
  • Kahn: PG matchup could be key
  • Goodman: Ainge focused on present
  • Kahn: Phil, Red the ultimate rivals
  • Rosen: Comparing historic Big Threes
  • Whatifsports.com: Finals simulations
  • Rosen: One of Jackson's best jobs
  • Kriegel: Don't forget to credit Kupchak

Photos

  • Finals pics: Game 2 | Game 1
  • Celtics-Lakers through the years

Video

  • NBA Finals Video Central
  • Magic, Bird talk NBA Finals
  • Heinsohn speaks from the hip
  • Farmar ready for Finals

Also

  • NBA Finals central: Lakers-Celtics
  • Finals talk: Discuss Lakers-Celtics
  • Lakers-Celtics: Head to head
  • Complete NBA playoff coverage

George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Slater Martin, Vern Mikkelsen.

Of these, Pollard was the prototype small forward, who was expected to run and jump his way into scoring situations. Aside from launching an occasional set shot, Martin's primary duties were to carry the ball across the timeline and deliver it safely to Mikan. Mikkelsen was the original power forward, who knocked people down, and cleaned up his teammates' leftovers. Mikan was pro basketball's first dreadnaught pivot-bound scorer, and every play revolved around him.

As such, Mikan was always the Lakers first option, and everybody else was tied for second.

Boston Celtics (1957, 1959-66, 1968-69)

Bill Russell and (variously) Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Tom Heinsohn, John Havlicek, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones.

Despite the powerhouse talents of his running mates through the years, Russell's extraordinary defense and rebounding was always the motor for the Celtic dynasty's awesome fast break. Whenever a half-court hoop was required, plays would be run for Sharman, Heinsohn, or Sam Jones, with Russell's not inconsiderable offense (15.1 career ppg) strictly a bonus.

Yet no matter who the go-to scorer of the moment might have been, Russ was always the kingpin.

St. Louis Hawks (1958)

Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan, Slater Martin.

As with the Lakers, Martin was mainly a distributor. Hagan posted defenders up even though he stood only 6-4. And Pettit rebounded, shot his one-hander, drove hard to the cup, and brutalized his opponents on both ends of the court.

It was Pettit who was the end-all and be-all of the team, with Hagan acting as second banana, and Martin taking care of the rock.

Philadelphia 76ers (1968)

Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham.

Greer was a dead-eye shooter, a superb second option, and incredibly strong for a guard. Cunningham came off the bench to run amok, jump all over the boards, and shoot at will.

But Chamberlain was still at the top of his game and was the man in the middle of everything.

New York Knicks (1970, 1973)

Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Earl Monroe, Jerry Lucas.

Under the direction of Red Holzman, the Knicks famously looked for the open man, which could have been all of the above. Still, Frazier was basically a screen/roll scorer, Monroe was a one-on-one genius, Bradley scored off team movement, DeBusschere rarely looked to shoot, and Lucas rebounded like a big man and passed and shot like a guard.

But it was Captain Willis who was the fail-safe scorer, as well as the heart and soul of the Knicks' first championship. With Reed limited by nagging injuries throughout the 1972-73 season, DeBusschere continued to be the defensive rock, Monroe was the ace up the Knicks' sleeve on offense, and Clyde became The Man.

L.A. Lakers (1972)

Here's your chance to fire back at Charley Rosen. Submit it below and Charley may just respond.

Subject:
Comment/Question:
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Garnett has the most impressive resume and the best stats. He leads the Celtics in scoring and rebounding, and also in shots per game (13.9). However, his shot total is ever so slightly padded because he spends more time near the basket and subsequently corrals more offensive rebounds (1.9, compared with 1.0 for Allen, and 0.7 for Pierce) and therefore more put backs.

The biggest problem with going to Garnett on a steady basis in critical moments is that his penchant for launching fadeaway jumpers rarely gets him to the stripe (4.7 free throws per game). Nor is he a particularly adept passer (3.5 assists). Because the ball must come to him, he can also be more easily denied possession than either Allen or Pierce.

Moreover, there is the question of KG's reliability in the clutch. In fact, several veteran NBAers privately voice the expectation that Garnett will find a way to fail when a game is on the line — anything from missing free throws to missing shots, from turning down easy shots in the paint to fumbling away key rebounds.

So there are several reasons why, if he had his druthers, Rivers would put the ball in Pierce's hands in the clutch.

  • Pierce gets to the foul line more than Garnett.

  • Pierce is a better passer and a better handler.

  • Because he can go get the ball, defenses have trouble overplaying and denying Pierce possession.

  • Defenses are also unlikely to double PP when he receives the ball in the middle of the court.

  • Because of his superior mobility and the unpredictable variety of his moves, Pierce can always be depended on to generate something positive for himself or his teammates.

    End-game matchups, foul situations, and the respective hand-temperatures of Allen, Garnett and Pierce are always to be considered when Rivers selects his shooter-of-choice in the waning moments of a tight ball game. Still, while Garnett is most likely the only constituent of the Celtics latest Big Three who's destined for the Hall of Fame, Pierce is usually the team's top gun whenever a sure shot is absolutely necessary.

    The outcome is that for the Lakers to prevail, they certainly have to limit the effectiveness of Allen and Garnett, but they absolutely must contain Pierce.


    Author: Fox Sports
    Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
    Added: June 3, 2008

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