Jan 2, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Celtics shooting guard Jordan Crawford (27) reacts against the Chicago Bulls during the 2nd half at the United Center. The Bulls won 94-82. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Rich's Take: What the Boston Celtics Need to Do Tonight Against The New Orleans Pelicans

All right, Hardwood Houdini fans: it’s gut-check time for the Boston Celtics.

Having lost five out of the last six contests, Boston has fallen out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and are now in a danger zone.  Celtics fans might be able to tolerate the team’s playing itself out of the Jabari Parker/Julius Randle/Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes IF the team put together a respectable season and made the playoffs.  However, the worst thing the Celtics could do is finish 9th or 10th in the East, both out of the playoffs and out of the running for a prime pick in the draft.

What’s it going to be, Boston?

Tonight’s game against the Pelicans is a chance to get the Celtics feeling good about themselves before they head out on a road trip that will see them play five games against Western Conference playoff hopefuls.   Yikes.  That’s not the sort of road trip the Cs want to begin feeling all emo about themselves, so taking care of business tonight against a Pelicans team that has only won a single game on the road so far this season is a must.

Here are three things the Celts must do in order to win tonight:

1. Shoot the ball more efficiently, especially from behind the arc.

During this six game stretch in which Boston has lost five, the Celtics have shot 29.4% from behind the arc.  Last night, they were not even that good, as they missed 10 of 12.  One of my New Year’s resolutions for Jared Sullinger was to practice shooting threes, since he obviously won’t stop taking them.  Clearly, he didn’t have time to read my resolution, as he went 0-2 including a horrific air ball in the first half.  Overall, the Celtics shot just 39.5% from the field last night, which won’t get it done in the NBA.  The Celtics need to move the ball more and try to create more than just jump shots as the shot clock expires against the Pelicans tonight.

2. Play team basketball.

Last night, there were moments of great individual play.  Jared Sullinger fighting for rebounds on the offensive glass.  Avery Bradley single-handedly trying to keep Boston in the game by pressuring the in-bounds pass late in the fourth quarter.  Jordan Crawford going for 22 points and 7 assists.  All in all, though, the Celtics did not play well as a team against the Chicago Bulls.  Joakim Noah kept shredding the Celtics D last night, as guys were leaving their man to double, resulting in easy cuts to the basket for the Bulls.  The Celtics have communicate more on defense and on offense, as Boston only recorded fifteen assists on the evening.   This team doesn’t have a superstar that it can rely on in the clutch, so the Celtics have to get back to playing team basketball.

Dec 31, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Avery Bradley (0) tries to steal the ball from Atlanta Hawks center Pero Antic (6) during the third quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

3. Get physical with the Pelicans.

One of the few bright spots that coach Brad Stevens saw from his team was night was their physical play.  Sully was a beast on the boards, and I didn’t mind his hard foul on Taj Gibson, although he cannot afford another flagrant  tonight.  The Celtics have to keep that up tonight, especially in the paint against under-sized forwards Anthony Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu.  No more settling for long-range Js, guys – drive the lane, dish it to the bigs, and crash the glass all night long.

Tonight’s game is set to begin at 7:30, so make sure to follow us @HoudiniCeltics, and come back after the game for my thoughts!


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