Game 32 Preview: Celtics vs. Blazers

A Look at the Celtics

Remember how we talked a week or two ago about stats that mattered versus those that didn't?  Remember how we pointed out things like point differential, field goal percentage and field goal percentage allowed, defensive rebounding...things that good teams really excelled in?  Check this out:

Point Differential:  +10.7, second in the league

Field Goal Percentage:  48.6%, second in the league

Field Goal Percentage Allowed:  41.8%, first in the league

Defensive Rebounding Percentage: 76.3%, second in the league

Free Throw Attempts per game:  28,7, third in the league

Free Throws Made per game:  21.7, third in the league

Calling this team elite is like saying Megan Fox is slightly cute, Paul Allen has a few bucks, Jimi Hendrix was a decent guitar player, and Portland women favor a little bit of leg hair.  Grab your weed whacker and hold on.  Boston doesn't mess around.

They're not invincible.  In fact they recently lost two in a row to the L*kers and Golden State respectively.  The thing is, that doubled their loss total for the year.  That's right, the Clippers lose more in a week than the Celtics have lost all season.  They dominate because Kevin Garnett doesn't let them lose.  They dominate because you can't guard Paul Pierce and Ray Allen at the same time.  They dominate because their stars make their role players look fantastic.  They dominate because their defense is the best in the NBA which leaves you an infinitesimal margin of error because you have to figure out not just how to stop their scorers, but how to hold their team to 91 or less on an average night.  Nobody but the Cavaliers and the Celtics themselves allow that little scoring.

What else can you say about these guys?  They're the world champions.  They're playing like it too.  Your best hope is to catch them on an off night.  They've rested a day in preparation for this game so fatigue shouldn't be a factor.  After losing those two games they came back and took it out on the Kings to the tune of a 108-63 victory.  At least they got one win under their belts before they came in here, but I seriously doubt their appetite is sated.

Keys to the Game

There are really only a couple keys to this one.  There are technical approaches, to be sure (rebound, close down the lane, run every time you get the chance, move the ball and don't let their defense set) but none of them really matter unless these two happen first.

1.  We have to play with passion and energy for 48 minutes.  This is like running a marathon against a superior opponent who doesn't tire.  It may look like he only gained 50 feet on you when you let down your guard and relaxed a little but you will never, ever see those 50 feet again once you're looking at his back.  That's not to say the Celtics' first lead wins the game, but if you let them get up by 12 it's far more likely you'll go down 22 than it is that you'll catch up.  Superior talent and execution almost always win, but on the rare occasions they do lose it's because the underdog hustled 100%.

2.  As soon as they're even remotely threatened the Celtics are going to turn on the physicality.  You know this is coming.  We weren't beaten in the last game as much as we were forcibly ejected from it.  If this were pro wrestling you'd say they stiffed us and we owe them a receipt.  If you are not willing to stand up to them, if you are not willing to fight through every elbow on the pick, if you are not willing to bump them in return when they cut, if you are not willing to deny their attempts at humiliation and intimidation you might as well give up this game now.  The Blazers need to play like grown men in order to win this game.  They might need to play like grown, angry men.  This should have been a lesson picked up from the last game.  It will be a lesson they'll have to learn if they ever hope to succeed in the playoffs.  You might as well start now.  Nobody backs down.  Nobody stops clawing and fighting for this win until the final horn sounds.  You look at each other in the locker room and say, "This is our house and anyone who thinks differently is going to have to deal with all of us."  The coaches cannot teach you this.  They cannot do it for you.  There's no X's and O's or clipboard drawings that will help you make this leap.  You just have to decide that this is who you are and that nobody is going to take that away from you while there's still one bounce left in that ball and one second left on that clock.

3.  OK, a short third key.  That barrel full of free throw attempts the Celtics carry with them notwithstanding, don't lose this game from the charity stripe.  Make them work for their points.  That probably means you have to draw fouls too in order to keep up, so be aggressive in penetration.

Final Thoughts

This game should have been circled on the Blazers' calendar for the last month.  It'll be interesting to see how they come out and how they finish.

Check out the Celtics' point of view at CelticsBlog.

Enter the month's last Jersey Contest form here.  After this evening our December winner will be crowned!

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

BallHype: hype it up!

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