The Celtics are going to meet the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs.
And despite the Celtics’ poor play over the last few weeks, particularly on offense, there are still plenty of reasons to believe the Celtics can defeat Miami and perhaps make another NBA Finals run. Keep in mind, the Lakers have lost 5 straight games, but most people still expect them to make it out of the West.
While yesterday’s game was certainly discouraging, the Celtics still won the season series 3-1. The Celtics still have more championship experience, as well as a more balanced roster. Over the course of a 7-game series, the Heat aren’t going to play as well as they played yesterday, and the Celtics aren’t going to play as badly.
But Doc Rivers & Co. needs to figure out a few things if the C’s are going to win this matchup.
Here are a few scattered questions I came up with while watching yesterday’s blowout:
After being outrebound by the Heat 42-26 yesterday, what do the Celtics do inside?
I’m not sure. You can count me as one of those people that does not think the Celtics are going to get a huge contribution from Shaquille O’Neal. He just hasn’t given me any reason to believe that he can be a factor. If it’s not an injury, then it will probably be foul trouble that keeps him off the floor. So at this point, anything we get from him is just a bonus in my eyes…Besides Chris Bosh, who the Celtics will matchup with Kevin Garnett, there are no Heat big men (Joel Anthony, Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas)that make you worry on the offensive end. This gives the Celtics some flexibility because they don’t need to be overly concerned with their post-defense. But the key is rebounding. The Heat pulled down 15 offensive rebounds yesterday. That can’t happen in the playoffs.
Here are the rebounding numbers from the Celtics’ bigs:
Not to oversimplify this decision, because each player comes with his own flaws, but should Doc just tell these guys, “Whoever is going to rebound is going to play,” and leave it at that?
How important is Rajon Rondo’s play, specifically when it comes to taking care of the basketball?
Always important. But even more important against the Heat. The one thing that I keep forgetting about Miami is that they are a very good defensive team. Particularly with LeBron and Wade having the ability to shut down opponents when they really put their mind to it. Finding a balance between creativity and composure will be Rondo’s main challenge as he tries to pick apart Miami.
Yesterday the Celtics committed 19 turnovers, and were actually pretty fortunate that Miami only turned those into 11 points. But don’t expect that to always be the case. The Heat are 10th in the NBA in fast-break points, and that number is somewhat misleading because the Heat are always getting fouled in transition (3rd in NBA in free throws made per game).
Yesterday, Rondo personally only had 3 turnovers, but his ineffectiveness led to several ugly offensive possessions. The frustrating thing about Rondo these days is that you simply don’t know if he’s going to show up. His formula for success is not that complex. Attack, attack, attack. Then distribute. But lately that’s much easier said than done.
How do the Celtics get Ray Allen going?
Brian just posted about this, and there’s already been a decent amount of discussion on this topic here at CelticsHub. But I think it’s a very critical question when it comes to a Heat-Celtics matchup. There is always the concern that Pierce struggles against LeBron, in which case Allen may become the Celtics’ primary scorer.
In the Celtics’ 3 victories over Miami, Ray has had plenty of looks:
1) 20 points, 7-13 FG, 5-8 3FG
2) 35 points, 13-23 FG, 7-9 3FG
3) 13 points, 5-14 FG, 2-6 3FG
Yesterday’s game: 13 points, 4-9 FG, 2-5 3FG
Wade played well defensively yesterday, and I would expect that Wade would continue that type of effort during the playoffs. So the Celtics need to figure out a way to find more shots for Ray, because 9 shots are certainly not enough. Maybe they need to look for him in transition more frequently. Or maybe Doc needs to design a few more set plays specifically for him.
Again, the quote from Doc after the game:
“We’ve got to do a better job [of getting Allen shots],” Rivers said. “I have to do a better job. He has to do a better job of being patient and we’ve got to set picks. I think our pick-setting is horrendous right now. We have one pick-setter on the team and that’s Kevin [Garnett].”
One pick-setter?! What does that even mean? Are other players not capable of literally standing in front of opponents so that Ray can free himself? I understand that there is a certain skill that is needed to consistently set really good picks. But c’mon. If you’re in the NBA you should be able to set screens. It’s that simple.
The most telling remark on this issue came from Ray himself, though. When asked if there was any discussion during the game about getting him more open shots, Ray responded, “No, that wasn’t said tonight.”