Game 10 Preview: Blazers vs. Celtics

A Look at the Celtics

It's been a bad start to the season for the C's.  Theo Ratliff...out.  Al Jefferson...out.  Now Michael Olowokandi...out.  They're down to what Jeff at CelticsBlog calls "Small Ball by Default".

However, if you're the Celtics and can only one have side of your team working you want it to be the smaller guys.  Paul Pierce has been a largely unsung near-superstar in this league for years and the last few years in particular he has expanded his game well beyond just scoring.  So far he's tallying 26 points and 10 rebounds a game, and that's from a 6'6" guy.  Wally Szczerbiak has been distinguishing himself with more than the "My Name Gets the Most Points in Scrabble" award this year too.  He's right around 22, 4, and 3 himself.  Wally has always been considered one of the less valuable scorers in the league but that hasn't stopped him from murdering the Blazers plenty of times.  The Celtics are also high on a trio of young guys:  6'7 forward Ryan Gomes, 6'1" rookie point guard Rajon Rondo, and former Blazer dazzler Sebastian Telfair.  Gomes and Telfair have been starting, each netting around 10 points and 3 assists a game and Gomes adding 7 rebounds.  Rondo has 5 points and 4 assists in limited minutes off the bench.

Boston is a very good perimeter shooting (as well as perimeter scoring) team.  Despite some decent individuals they have yet to gel on the court.  There's a fair amount of "give it to Pierce and watch him work" in their offense.  With all the injuries that should be worse tonight.  They are not very good at keeping hold of the ball and one may surmise that the new rules are hampering the traditional styles of some of their smalls.  They will not force many turnovers either, which means lots of extra opportunities for the opponent.

Things I'd like to see:

  1.  Boston is in a great spot for us.  They're down, they're injured, and they just won their last game which means they got that out of their system.  One of two things is likely to happen:  they'll either fight back with more grit that we imagined or they'll fold like a house of cards.  If we throw the hammer down on them tonight and don't let up, we could conceivably walk out with an easy road win.  We're not very good at hammering down on people though.  Hopefully we'll have a little residual anger from losing a couple games.
  2.  We should absolutely pound the ball inside and let Zach and company work their big men.  (OK... "big men" is inaccurate right now.  Their bigger guys.)  Similarly we should exploit the relatively weak defense of Telfair and Szczerbiak by driving past them into the teeth of the defense.  There is no--repeat, NO--reason to be taking any jump shots tonight.  Just don't do it!  If we were at home I would encourage folks to boo anyone who lofted it from more than 12 feet.
  3.  On the other end our guys should be able to get some rebounds.  Gomes, Pierce, and 6'10" Kendrick Perkins are all good rebounders but only Pierce plays truly big minutes on a regular basis.  We better be able to outhustle and outmuscle them to some rebounds.  We have been among the worst rebounding teams in the league again during this losing streak and that needs to stop.  There's no reason for it with our personnel.   Tonight we might actually be able to leak out a little on some of these rebounds, starting what for us is a real rarity...a real, live fast break.
  4.  Pierce is going to score at least 25 no matter who we put on him.  That's just fine.  We need to do just two other things to make this work:  do not leave Wally Who and stay in front of Telfair.  If we can manage those it won't matter how many Pierce scores.  Let him go 1-on-1 if he wants.  He'll make a bunch of shots but he'll turn it over too.  Live with that and just don't let anyone else get off.
  5.  If Kendrick Perkins is guarding Zach, go at him all night.  If you get him in foul trouble this game is half won already.  I want to see large, large doses of Brian Scalabrine out there.
  6.  I want to see, like, a +10 turnover differential for us tonight.  Along with that I want to see guys hustling and diving on the floor.  Anybody seen any of that the last few games?  We had more of it early.
This game is causing fans on both sides to say, "We better win this or else we really suck."  With all of the injuries on both sides maybe that's not fair.  But it's probably accurate anyway.  Not to underestimate Boston, but this is the kind of game we need to take, lest we creep towards last year's horrid road (and overall) record.  If Pierce and Zach cancel each other out and if we don't leave Wally to double-team, I'm thinking our supporting cast can beat theirs.  They won't have enough defense (or enough bodies period) to stop us if we really want it.

If we do get through the first ten games of the season with a .500 record we should be pretty happy.  Heck, we should probably be happy with a .400 record too, but we won't...

Update [2006-11-17 18:30:51 by Dave]: They've posted part of this preview over at CelticsBlog. You can click through for a sampling of what they're saying. Interesting stuff. (And good to know Blazer fans aren't the only ones that overrate their team...)

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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