The Boston Celtics come into tonight’s game after a tough loss in New Orleans against the Hornets. Boston takes on the 32-36 Dallas Mavericks who are three and half games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth in the Western Conference Standings. Dallas will be hungry for a win tonight to stay alive for the last playoff spot, so Boston cannot take this team lightly. The Celtics had no energy in the second half against the Hornets, and to not show up for any stretch tonight could prove fatal in Boston’s chances of securing their first victory on this three game road trip.
What Boston didn’t do right Wednesday can be improved on, but it’s frustrating as a fan to watch them continue to make careless mistakes. For a game like tonight, it’s not how the Celtics can prevent the Mavericks from coming out strong and dominant, it’s what can they do to make sure they don’t defeat themselves. In most of the losses this season for Boston, they have no one to blame but themselves for not executing down the stretch in games. So here are the keys and must do’s for a Celtics victory tonight.
- Boston must box out on rebounds against the Mavericks tonight. On Wednesday the Hornets had eleven offensive rebounds while Boston only managed four offensive rebounds which is unacceptable, especially against a team as bad as New Orleans. In fact, it was the lack of boxing out and securing the rebound which resulted in a game winning tip in by Anthony Davis. To make sure that doesn’t happen again, the Celtics have to keep Chris Kaman and Dirk Nowitzki off the boards and limit their second chance opportunities. If Boston can restrict Dallas from getting into the paint after a missed shot, that’s half the battle.
- The Celtics need to continue pushing the tempo. Too many times in the fourth quarter, Boston went back to the half court offense which hasn’t been successful since Rajon Rondo’s season ended with a torn ACL. When they slow down, so does the offensive efficiency and production. The Mavericks aren’t a young team, so to get out on the fast break as much as possible could give the Celtics an advantage, especially after missed shots by Dallas. With the Celtics, I always think of the saying, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” and that’s why Boston can’t change up their offense halfway through the game.
- The bench has to step up tonight. Against the Hornets, the Celtics bench only scored 17 points, 13 from Jeff Green. Boston must get Jason Terry, Jordan Crawford, and Chris Wilcox involved early and get them in a good rhythm. To rely on the starters to come through and produce most of the Celtics points tonight would play right into Dallas’ hands. The Mavericks are not a deep team so Boston’s bench needs to capitalize on that and continue to attack relentlessly on them.
- Jeff Green is the x-factor. If he stays involved throughout the game, he’ll set the tone for the rest of the bench. In New Orleans he scored 11 points in the first quarter, but only 2 the rest of the game. Tonight, Boston will have to look to him more and make sure he stays relevant, not just in one quarter, but the entire game. The best way to do this is to run plays for him and let him attack the basket. On Wednesday he was in the corner on a majority of the Celtics offensive possessions, and because of that he disappeared for the rest of the game. Green is capable of going off on offense, and if they use him effectively, he could singlehandedly get Boston the win.
The Chicago Bulls lost last night, so Boston is tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference standings. A win tonight would propel them to a half game lead over Chicago, so taking care of business and getting the victory is important. Jason Terry returns to Dallas for the first time since playing for them last season, and I expect him to have a big game tonight. On paper, Boston should get the victory, but there have been many times that they have disappointed. Hopefully tonight is different and the Celtics can get ready for the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow.