The Boston Celtics come into tonight’s game on a five game losing streak, which has been the worst stretch for Boston in recent years. The Celtics have been plagued by injuries, with Kevin Garnett being the most recent casualty. Courtney Lee will not play tonight, so Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, and Jason Terry will have to step up in his absence once again. Boston will need everyone to contribute and play with energy for the Celtics to come away with a victory. This isn’t a familiar place for fans to see their team struggle like this, and in the last six seasons, playing a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers was always a guaranteed victory. Last night was no different from the games in Dallas and Memphis, so what must Boston do to make sure that they don’t continue this downward slide? Here are the keys to a Celtics win, and to get back on track.
- Boston must run the ball. Every time they pushed the tempo they got easy shots in transition. In the brief time they ran the floor, the Celtics cut into the New York Knicks lead, but when they went back to the half court offense, they got horrible looks at the basket and the offense stalled. The lack of running yesterday was on every player, no one got out on the break, and as a result they only scored 85 points in the game. Tonight, the Celtics have to push the tempo, not because Cleveland is an exceptional defensive team, but because they can blow them out and get an easy win. The last time Boston consistently ran the ball was against the Miami Heat, and as a result the Celtics had a 17 point lead over them. Tonight is a great opportunity to get back in a rhythm before facing the Knicks again.
- The Celtics need to rebound. One of the main reasons why Boston is on a five game skid is because they’re getting out-rebounded. The Knicks had 15 offensive rebounds, with Carmelo Anthony and J.R Smith out-rebounding the Celtics on the offensive glass by themselves. That’s unacceptable, especially with Tyson Chandler missing the game with a bulging disk. To have that happen against the Cavaliers tonight would have to drive coach Doc Rivers crazy, or any coach for that matter. Cleveland is having their own injury problems in the front court, so if Boston boxes out and limits second chance points, they should come away with the victory.
- Lastly, Boston needs to limit their turnovers. Against the Knicks they turned the ball over 19 times, with a majority of those turnovers being unforced. The Celtics played carelessly, making bad passes, forcing plays that weren’t there. Turnovers and the pace the Celtics run on offense go hand and hand. When Boston runs the fast break, they’re less likely to make mistakes and capitalize on scoring opportunities because the opponent’s defense hasn’t been given the time to set up. If the Celtics play smart, especially when they go back to the half court offense, they won’t be giving the Cavaliers extra possessions that lead to fast break buckets.
Every game down the stretch is important. The Milwaukee Bucks are only a game and a half behind Boston, so getting wins is a must, unless they want to face the Miami Heat in the first round. Without Kevin Garnett for the next few games, and possibly two weeks, the Celtics will have to find new ways to win. This is a critical time for Boston. If the downward spiral continues, the likelihood of getting bounced in the first round will increase if they remain in the 7th seed or drop to the last playoff spot.