Tomorrow at 1:00 PM, Ray Allen makes his much anticipated return to Boston. While Allen can expect to hear a chorus of boos, it is the Celtics that fans are likely more frustrated with.
The first key to ending this six-game losing streak is playing the full 48 minutes. Doc Rivers thought the Celtics played a quarter and a half of near perfect basketball at the beginning of the game. The second half, however, was a different story.
Boston NEEDS to play more consistent. With the young talent on this team, even old age is not an excuse for positive stretches only occurring sporadically.
The Celtics woes stem from the intangibles; a lack of heart, passion, grit and effort seem to plague the team night-in-and-night-out.
The second key is defense. It will not be easy against a Miami team that upgraded offensively in the offseason (thanks in large part to the addition of Allen), but Boston must dig in and play fundamentally sound team defense. The rotations and communication have to be perfect. They also must limit second chances, something that will likely result in a Dwayne Wade or LeBron James dunk or a three-pointer.
Transition defense is pivotal. The Celtics have to hustle back on defense, something that has been an issue throughout the season. Being able to set up the defense and forcing the Heat to play a half court game, significantly increases Boston’s chances of winning this game.
Unleashing Avery Bradley would also go a long way towards earning a victory. When Bradley first returned he would harass opposing ball handlers. This helped to bring out the Celtics defense fans know and love. However, following a rib injury, Doc decided to be cautious with Bradley, who still presses but does so with a noticeable amount of separation, as opposed to being up in a guards face.
With the Heat coming to town and the team in the midst of a six-game losing streak, perhaps Doc unleashes Bradley, even if it’s just for one game.
Quite frankly, while preserving the third-year guard is a smart move, so is allowing him to revert back to his physical nature in games such as this one.
The third key for the Celtics is limiting turnovers. Miami’s abilities on the fastbreak are well documented. Protecting the ball is pivotal. This means avoiding errant passes and being precise with cross-court passes, should they be made. It also means taking smart shots.
The fourth and final key is capitalizing on good shots. Boston hasn’t struggled to create offense but making shots has proved to be difficult. If as a team, the Celtics can find their stroke, they stand a fighting chance against the top team in the East.
A player to watch for in this game is Jared Sullinger, whose ability to create second chances could prove key against a Heat team that has taken a beating on the boards this season.