Tonight, the Celtics play in their first road game since the season ending injuries to Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger occurred.
The first key for Boston is defensive continuity. The Raptors are an athletic team whose wings like to attack the basket. This strategy has given the undersized Celtics, fits. To make matters worse, Toronto now has Rudy Gay, who is averaging 20.9 points per game in his last nine outings against Boston and has the length and athleticism to make life difficult for Paul Pierce.
The Celtics must protect the rim. Since the team lacks an enforcer in the middle, this will have to be done as a result of preventing Toronto from penetrating into the lane. Boston must force players looking to drive, into the help defenders. Through this, the Celtics can force turnovers (Toronto averages 12.9 tpg), and attack in transition.
When forcing a player into the area of a help defender, it is critical that first and foremost, the help defender be in proper position to cut off the driving player. Secondly, the defensive-unit as a whole must quickly and efficiently rotate over to take away the passing lanes, making sure not to surrender an open shot, while helping to ensure that the attacking player goes into the double team.
Communication is a vital part of help defense and Boston’s defenders will need to be in constant communication with one and other. This becomes increasingly important on the road.
A large part of defensive continuity is effort. The Celtics must maintain a high level of defensive energy, making sure to hustle back in transition, against a young, athletic Raptors squad.
The second key tonight is offensive efficiency. Boston needs to utilize good ball movement and constant motion to create scoring opportunities. All five players must remain active, if guys are stagnant, it will likely result in a bad possession.
The third and final key is energy. If the Celtics compete at a high level tonight, the Raptors will not beat them. Hustle back on defense, remain active at both ends of the floor and put forth the effort necessary to earn an important road victory, for the full 48 minutes.