Tip: 8:00pm Court: AT&T Center Watch it: TNT Hear it: WEEI
Referees: Dan Crawford, Tony Brothers, Violet Palmer
The C's, playing without KG, hung on for a 105-103 win that saw Ray Allen and Glen Davis combine for 54 points, and Rondo drop 12 points, 22 assists, 10 rebounds, 6 steals and 1 block in 43 minutes.
Get it to: Ray Allen
The man stomped out of the Conseco Fieldhouse after losing to the Pacers because he simply isn't getting his shots right now. The C's need to come out and establish him early by getting back to the basics: staggered screens along the baseline that allow him to read where his defender his going and get to the open spot created by that defender's decision. Ideally, they'd find Ray curling off screens and getting 10-15 footers again. If Ray can get hot early, the C's offense will follow.
Gotta stop: Tony Parker
I'm sticking with the opposing point guard thing until Rondo proves that he can effectively defend without taking chances. With Parker diving into the lane and dishing, the Celtics will fall victim to their own offensive strategy that Rondo is supposed to be executing. The C's have always stressed on-ball defense and not allowing that penetration. With the C's still figuring things out on D, stopping Parker from getting to the rim will go a long way in keeping the Spurs in check.
The Wild Card: Jermaine O'Neal
I just wanted to type his name into a preview. But on top of that, he can actually be a wild card. He won't play much, but if he can go 10-15 minutes, then that could be a turning point. That means rest for KG and Baby while a tall guy who is familiar with the C's system is out there. He might not do much, but if he can grab a few key rebounds and block a shot or two to stifle a run, or extend a C's run… then he'll have done his job.
How we see it goin' down
You could not have two more similar teams. Older… dealing with injuries… came out hot and then faded a bit… it's all there. The C's and Spurs are mirror images of one another in many ways. But make no mistake about this: This IS a potential Finals preview… and the players know it.
I expect the C's to suddenly look like the C's again… and the Spurs to play like the Spurs. There's nothing like facing a team you'll possibly meet in the Finals on national TV to get the juices flowing. And both teams are coming off two day layoffs… so they'll be well rested.
I'll always like the Celtics in a situation like this. I think they'll wake up tonight and play well. This will be another tight one, with another tight Celtics win: 99-96.