Rebounding continues to be a problem for the undersized Celtics. In Wednesday night’s abomination of a loss to Brooklyn, that saw the end of Rajon Rondo’s assist streak, Boston surrendered seventeen offensive rebounds.
If the Celtics are going to win this game, and furthermore, achieve postseason success, the team must rebound as a cohesive unit. All five players must make a concentrated effort to box out their man and whoever is in the best position needs to aggressively pursue the basketball.
Another area of weakness on the defensive end has been the team’s ability to defend the pick and roll. Boston’s guards have got to be able to fight through screens fast enough for the Celtics bigs to hedge but still be able to get back to their man. If this cannot be achieved, the key is communicating who needs to rotate where so as to cover up any open lanes. The team has struggled with its rotations this season, often over crowding one side of the court, allowing opposing players to find openings and take advantage.
So while the team must do a better job rebounding, defending the pick and roll and communicating defensively, offensively, Boston must make tonight a half-court game, especially without Rondo. If the Celtics can control the pace of the game, then they should have no trouble taking advantage of Portland’s shaky defensive play, despite the loss of their all-star point guard.
Furthermore, the loss of Rondo means that the offense will be run through Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Expect for both to aggressively look for their shot tonight. The team would also be wise to get Jason Terry going from three-point range.
The final key for the Celtics to win this game is one that will be consistently featured in this series, bench scoring. Boston’s bench needs to help carry the load so that the team can get rest for Garnett, Pierce and the rest of the starting five. Despite the sore knee, look for Doc Rivers to run the offense through Jeff Green when he is in the game. Whether it be a two-man game with KG or utilizing the versatility of having him and Pierce on the floor together, expect Green to be put in a position to score tonight.