By Matt Ezepek
The Celtics have their backs against the wall being down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series to the Miami Heat. The Celtics will get a boost in Saturday’s game, however, with the return of Shaq, who has been out the entire playoffs and most of the second half of the season. Paul Pierce, who was hurt in game two, will also play in game 3. Doc Rivers said the Celtics will be at full strength for Saturday’s game 3 matchup.
Rivers said that in order to get back into the series, Boston needs to be more aggressive. The Heat have out hustled the Celtics through the first two games and have been driving to the basket while the Celtics have been taking jump shots. The Heat have attempted over 30 free throws in both games while the Celtics are down in the low 20s each game. Also, the Heat have been out-rebounding the Celtics in each game with offensive and defensive rebounds.
Saturday’s game is a must win for the Celtics at home. No team in NBA history has ever come back from being down 3-0 in a series. Getting Shaq back will surely be somewhat of a boost, but there are still many concerns for the Celtics that they need to fix.
The biggest focus is their defense. The Celtics pride themselves on the defensive end and they have been getting torched especially on the pick and roll. If it’s not Lebron James or Dwyane Wade getting to the basket easily, they are finding open three-point shooters or open mid-range jumpers. They need to be more aggressive and set traps before the offense is even getting started. This strategy has proven to be effective on James and Wade in prior seasons, so I’m puzzled to why we haven’t seen any of this yet.
The second thing that needs to improve is the bench. Glen Davis proclaimed before the series started that the Celtics bench was much better than the Heat bench. James Jones of the Heat proceeded to score 25 off the bench while Glen Davis went 2-7 with 1 rebound in 30 minutes. The bench will be boosted by the return of Shaq, but Glen Davis, Jeff Green and Delonte West really need to step up. Davis has been invisible. So has West. And Jeff Green just can’t seem to fit in with his new team after being traded mid-season.
If the Celtics bench and defense can improve, they can comeback in this series and win it. The return of Shaq will spark a comeback and the Celtics will win both games at home and ultimately take the series. This team will never quit so I don’t believe the 2-0 deficit will bring their spirits down.