Lots of happenings going around the web on the eve of the most anticipated opener in NBA history. C’s media relations has said there will be over 500 media credentials given out for the game, making it likely a more covered than even an NBA Finals contest might be. For now, let’s start with a few tidbits from our guy Chris Forsberg over at ESPN Boston reporting on the C’s final practice this afternoon:
On The Starting Center: Shaq by default?
While Rivers said the Celtics haven’t made a formal declaration on who will start at center Tuesday, it’s been widely assumed Shaquille O’Neal will get the call.
“Most likely Shaq, but we haven’t officially announced anything,” said Rivers. “But most likely him.”
With Jermaine O’Neal sidelined through much of training camp (hamstring) and missing four exhibition games in part because of two other ailments (back, left wrist), it’s been widely assumed Shaq would be the starter.
That also appears to be the right decision based on the team’s performance this preseason. Shaq helped open the floor offensively by forcing the opposing center to stick with him and didn’t prove to be as much of a liability defensively as some expected (though Boston certainly has put the onus on its guards to get over screens in the pick-and-roll).
The good news for tomorrow is that the Heat don’t really have any overly offensively capable big men to punish Shaq on the pick and roll. With that said, I expect them to try to lure Shaq out of the paint early and often with Joel Anthony, Chris Bosh or perhaps even Udonis Haslem (if Miami goes small) off the bench setting countless screens for Lebron, Wade, etc at the top of the key forcing the C’s D to react.
A tough test to be sure and my bet is once we get to crunch time Jermaine O’Neal will be the guy in there to make the C’s aged starting corps a bit less vulnerable to the penetration.
As far as the rest of the roster goes, look for a 9 man rotation tomorrow night, with Von Wafer perhaps being the odd man out for minutes. That could change quickly if either Paul Pierce or Ray Allen get into foul trouble (almost probable) in this game, but I don’t expect Doc to go to the bench mob (full 2nd unit) off the bat unless he absoutely has to.
The 12 man active roster is pretty clear as well, with Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West obviously out due to injury and suspension. Avery Bradley is still hurting from his ankle injury so expect the rookie to be in street clothes too. Semih Erden has a banged up shoulder but should dress along with Luke Harangody to fill out the 12 man roster tomorrow.
Guarding Lebron and Wade
Paul Pierce had some great thoughts on it as did Ray Allen from Waltham today:
* Pierce on defending James: “LeBron, he’s definitely an extra-special talent. We had Tony [Allen, now with Memphis] but by no means did Tony defend him by himself. We’re a team defense. It’s hard to defend LeBron one-on-one. They set a lot of plays they run through him, they set a lot of picks for him. He’s so dangerous in transition, so it’s going to be important for five guys to always be aware of where he is. The bad thing about it is they have Dwayne Wade on the other side now, so you know we just have to have our antennas up at all times, along with Chris Bosh, and be very aware where all these guys are on the court at all times. When LeBron has the ball, we have to be low and have one or two guys right there looking at him, and when they swing it to Wade, same thing there.”
Allen stressed that not turning the ball over, something that plagued Boston much of last season and this year during the preseason slate, is key to limiting the damage done by both Wade and James.
“I think, defense-wise, transition defense is important to us,” said Allen. “We have to get back and stop the ball. The Heat have two of best players in the NBA in the open court, so we’ve got to get back and load up our defense. We can’t turn the ball over. We turned the ball over in the preseason, the last couple games we kind of got a handle on it, but if we turn the ball over on this team, they’ll score on us in transition. We have to give our defense a chance to set up.”
I don’t know about you guys by despite his injury, Dwyane Wade is the man I’m worried about most tomorrow night. The guy carried his Heat squad last year against Boston, abusing Ray Allen for most of the series while winning one game in Miami all by himself. A quick look at Wade’s numbers:
33.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 56%FG, 40% 3pt
With some support surrounding him now at multiple positions? The possibilities are endless. The C’s better hope he shows some rust out there.Whose with me on this?
Much more to come tonight….