Arbella Game 2 Preview: Celtics at Heat

Arbella Playoffs

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics (8-6) will take the floor at 8:30 p.m. tonight with the goal of tying up their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Miami Heat (9-3) at 1-1. All of the buzz words they used Tuesday afternoon gave an indication of how they plan to accomplish that goal.

Celtics coaches and players all echoed the same terms throughout Tuesday’s media availability: multiple stops, physicality, aggressive, protect the paint, effort. These are the keys to Boston’s success in Game 2 and beyond.

The hottest topic out of all of those buzz words has been protecting the paint. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade led an onslaught of interior scoring for the Heat during Game 1. Doc Rivers noted that Miami made 19 layups during the opening contest and shot 21-for-27 in the paint as a whole.

“That can’t happen in a CYO game,” Rivers said, “let alone a playoff game.”

Rivers’ players agree with that assessment. They consistently noted that they must make things more difficult for Miami’s players. The Celtics want to make the Heat uncomfortable, not allow easy layups and prevent offensive put-backs. They believe that if they can accomplish those goals, they’ll be much better at the other end of the floor.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce and the basket didn't get along in Game 1, as Boston's captain shot just 5-for-18 from the field.
Mike Ehrmann/NBAE/Getty

“I think if we do that our offense will be much better because that means we’re getting stops, multiple stops, and we’re out running,” said Rivers. “Part of the reason we didn’t run much is because they scored half the time or they got offensive rebounds and they were layups. We have to get multiple stops so we can get (Rajon) Rondo in transition.”

Rondo was by far the most aggressive Celtic at the offensive end of the floor Monday night, but it was not the type of aggression that the Celtics need. He took a team-high 20 shots, many of which were highly contested, and made just eight of them. He also was limited to just seven assists while tying for the game high in turnovers with four.

The Celtics want to get Rondo out in transition because that is when he’s at his best. However, if they’re going to win this series their key offensive player is Paul Pierce.

Pierce shot a woeful 5-for-18 in Game 1 en route to just 12 points. His overall box score was extremely underwhelming for a player who has a Finals MVP in his trophy case. Rivers believes the way his captain will get on track is with a spike in his aggression.

“He has to be more aggressive, be more assertive,” said Rivers. “He has to attack more. It’s like I said with Paul, you can look at his numbers, it’s easy to read: if he has no foul shots and only two rebounds then it wasn’t a physical game for Paul.”

Game 1 wasn’t a physical game for Pierce or the Celtics as a whole. They understand that. The C’s have watched the film and processed their mistakes, and now they’re ready to remedy them on the court tonight.

Another thing Boston understands is that it may have fallen in Game 1, but its goal for this trip remains up for grabs.

“We want to try and get one,” said Pierce. “Try to take the home-court advantage away, put the pressure back on them.”

Keep the Composure

Five technical fouls in a single game is an extraordinary amount for one team to receive. The Celtics were whistled for that many during Game 1, and that can’t happen again.

Media outlets across the country have been hounding on the fact that many of those technicals were not warranted, particularly the ones whistled on Rivers and Ray Allen. No matter what, though, the C’s put themselves in position to be whistled for the techs and they must avoid similar situations in Game 2.

Avoiding technical fouls is important to ensure that the team is keeping a level head, but it’s also important because it prevents free points for the opponent. The importance of every point is magnified in the playoffs, and the C’s don’t want to give away free ones to this Heat team.

Capitalize on the Freebies

With that being said, Boston didn’t exactly capitalize on its own opportunities for free points during Game 1. The Celtics were terrible at the free-throw line, where they made just 11 of their 21 attempts.

Had the C’s made at least half of their 10 missed shots from the charity stripe, the final minutes of Game 1 would have been much more interesting. Boston can head into Game 2 knowing that it played a very poor game, yet still would have been in contention for the win if it had made a high percentage of its free throws.

Quiet the Troops

James and Wade are obviously the central forces of Miami’s attack at both ends of the floor. They combined for 54 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists and five blocks during Game 1.

The Celtics can live with that (although they’d like to make things more difficult on the two superstars). What Boston can’t live with is the rest of Miami’s team playing at a high level.

Shane Battier led the charge for Miami’s “other guys” by logging a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. Additionally, Mario Chalmers scored nine points, Mike Miller scored eight points and Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf combined for 11 rebounds.

Boston will pay plenty of attention to James and Wade tonight, but it cannot forget about the rest of the Heat’s players in the same manner it did Monday night.