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Game 56 Preview: Celtics vs. Blazers

What a difference five weeks makes.

On January 16th, the last time we played the Celtics, we had just won 18 of 20 games and many folks around Blazer Nation were eager to test ourselves against a top-notch opponent.  We did and we came up 10 points short in a typical 100-90 Boston victory.  Since that game we have not won consecutively, going 6-12.  The Celtics have gone 10-6.  Here's all you need to know about the difference between the two teams at this point:  If we lose this game we will shrug our shoulders.  If they lose this game they will be required by tradition to commit hara-kiri.

The Celtics' basic strategy has not changed much since we last met.  They are an extremely tough defensive team.  They have allowed opponents 100 points or more only 10 times in 53 games this season (three of them in the last four outings).  They figure if they can hold you down their stars are going to score enough by default to put you away.  You won't stop all three of them and if you try you won't stop any of them.  They force a lot of turnovers.  They'll slice through you if they can.  If you move to cut that off they'll bruise you down deep.  When you rotate to stop that say hello to their little friend the three-point shot.  They're fourth in the league in shooting from the field and from the three-point arc.  They draw the 7th most free throw attempts in the league and the 5th most free throw makes.

In short, this is Batman AND Robin tied to the conveyor belt headed towards the radial saw.  Unless we have some nifty gadgets in our utility belt (or unless Rebecca Haarlow suits up and pulls a Batgirl-like save) the future is not looking bright.

On the other hand the Celtics are going through a crisis-like losing streak of 3 (count them, THREE) in a row.  They lost back to back to Golden State and Denver when they let those high-octane teams go for points like they were M&Ms at a Weight Watcher's convention.  Then they lost an 85-77 defensive battle with the Suns.  Then again we're not Golden State, we're not Denver, and we're sure as heck not Phoenix.

What I'd Like to See

I think there's only one key to today's game.  It has to be an all-out blitz.  We need to overwhelm their three big guys with a multi-pronged attack that leaves them looking so many places that they can't see straight.  That means Jarrett, Martell, Travis, Blake, and Channing all have to be dead on along with the usual Lamarcus-Brandon attack.  That means pushing the tempo, finding the open avenue flawlessly, and converting.  4 of their last 6 losses have been to teams scoring 114 or more.  We may not get that much, but we're going to have to get close.  If we're behind we're dead.  Anything that ends up matching possession vs. possession for the win has to favor them.  This game is going to have to be full-throttle and carefree.

If we crash and burn, well, we were expected to.  Better that than coming out passive, giving away possessions, and succumbing to an inevitable 15-point loss.

--Dave (