(Note: Barnes missed practice today (back) but is likely to play tomorrow. If he doesn’t, the Magic still have Mickael Pietrus and J.J. Redick to take his minutes. If he does, this post will actually be relevant.)
When I first read that Matt Barnes would defend Ray Allen this series, I didn’t know what to think. I wondered to myself whether Barnes would do well tailing Allen around screen after screen after screen, but I didn’t know the true answer. I simply don’t know enough about the Magic, nor Barnes, to know whether he does a good job chasing shooters. I know Barnes is considered a good defender (and has enough tattoos to feed a small country), but had no idea how he’d match up with Ray-Ray.
Now, I know the answer… and it isn’t good for the Celtics. Barnes does a tremendous job defending around screens. According to Synergy Sports (via the Orlando Pinstriped Post), Barnes is in the 90th percentile of all defenders when it comes to defending around screens. That’s pretty damn good. In the regular season, Barnes defended Paul Pierce while Vince Carter guarded Allen. But Barnes is substantially worse guarding pick-and-rolls and isolations (Pierce’s strong suits) than he is trailing players around screens. Barnes will match up far better with Allen than he did with Pierce.
Which brings us to Carter. Conventional wisdom says Carter is a below-average defender. It tells us that Carter is a lazy bastard who shows as much commitment to defense as Tiger Woods did to marriage. Both of those things conventional wisdom tell us might be true, but he’s also very good at defending Pierce’s bread-and-butters. When it comes to guarding pick-and-rolls, Carter is in the 72nd percentile of all NBA defenders. For isolations, he’s in the 82nd percentile. Not too shabby, to say the least. Of course, he won’t defend Pierce as well as Lebron James did in round two. Pierce, regardless of whether Carter’s defense is underrated, will feel like T.I. when T.I. got out of jail. He should certainly be more free to score than he was against Cleveland.
I keep looking at the matchups in this series, and I can’t help but think this is going to be a long and painful series for both sides. Down the line, the matchups are so even. Even the mismatches are good matchups. Don’t get what I mean? Dwight Howard vs. Kendrick Perkins is a mismatch. Howard will get the better of Perkins, there is no doubt in anybody’s mind. But Perk is as good a defender on Howard as anyone in the league. He can handle him one-on-one in the post, no double-team necessary. Same thing goes with Ray-Ray and Barnes. Ray’s better, nobody would argue that. But Barnes is a good matchup for him defensively.
Considering how well the two teams match up, I expect a long, drawn-out series and nothing less. May the best team win.