The Boston Celtics travel to Cleveland tonight, where they will look to avenge an early-season loss at the hands of the mediocre Cavaliers. Here are three keys to the game:
1. Stop the athletes – The Celtics have earned a reputation as a team that struggles against long, athletic players. While I think the reputation is unfair, it is still deserved. How is the reputation unfair yet still deserved? That sounds oxymoronic, right? And maybe it is. But what I mean is this: when the Celtics use full effort, they can — and do — stop long, athletic folks like Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson. It’s when the Zombie Celtics come to play that the Celtics are outworked by long athletes. If the effort is there tonight, Hickson and Varejao should be limited. And if the effort isn’t there? Hickson might look like an MVP candidate, and Varejao will probably pull down 15 rebounds or so.
2. Guard play – The three guard/wings Cleveland started against Memphis the other night? Mo Williams, Anthony Parker and Joey Graham. You don’t need a basketball-ology degree to know Rondo should have his way with Williams, and methinks Pierce and Allen should get the best of Parker and Graham. Parker, by the way, is a statistical anomaly. He’s shooting 51.4% from three-point range, but only 38.3% from the field.
3. The bench – Ahh, my least favorite part of the Celtics team — the bench. Someone besides Glen Davis needs to step up as a consistent contributor soon, and fast, or else. The C’s starters are playing far too many minutes, and for once I can’t even blame Doc Rivers for that – I wouldn’t play that damn bench, either. Every time the second unit steps on the floor, a lead evaporates into thin air. Rivers said it’s time for him to switch his rotations. He can’t keep playing the second five as a single unit, because that unit — in a word — sucks. The rotations Rivers uses are something to keep an eye on. He has to make changes to help the bench, but hopefully those changes won’t hurt the starters’ production.