at Cleveland Cavaliers (1-1) at Boston Celtics (1-1)
Friday, May 7
7:00 PM ET
Round 2, Game 3
Referees: Bennett Salvatore, Ken Mauer, Zach Zarba
The Celtics dominated both games in Cleveland in spite of having the majority of calls go against them. In the first game, they got complacent and allowed the Cavs to come back and take the game in the end. In game 2, they let a 23 point lead slip down to 10, but it wasn't as much complacency in that game as it was a flurry of bad calls and no calls that hit them. In spite of playing 5 on 8, the Celtics were able to keep their composure and get the win.
Now, they are coming back home with home court advantage and a chance to go up 3-1 in the series if they can win both games on their home court. Even though they will be playing at home, they can't expect to get any help from the refs as I expect the calls to still go the Cavs way, especially with the crew officiating this game. . The Celtics must focus as they did in game 2 and not allow the bad calls and no calls to affect how they play.
The Celtics struggled at home in the regular season, but this is the playoff version of the Celtics and they have been more focused and we are seeing the defense that we have come to know and love from this team in years past. Hopefully they keep their focus and are able to use home court to their advantage and win the next two games.
The Celtics proved that they can beat both the Cavs and the refs. They proved that they can win in Cleveland. Now they have to defend their home court and make the Garden a place to be feared once again.
Rajon Rondo vs Mo Williams
This continues to be the biggest advantage that the Celtics have. Rondo has been the best player in this series and hopefully he will continue to be so. So far, the Cavs haven't been able to come up with an answer for him as he has dominated every matchup they have thrown at him. Mo Williams got hot in the first game and that is a concern for the Celtics. They have to defend him closely so as to keep him from finding his shot again.
Paul Pierce vs LeBron James
Paul Pierce has spent much of this series so far in foul trouble. Since the refs aren't allowed to call fouls on LeBron, many of his fouls have been called in the other direction and that has kept Pierce from being aggressive. He is due for a big game and it could be in this one. After LeBron's big game in game 1, we thought that the elbow talk would be put to rest, but after his sub-par performance in game 2, the elbow talk was back. The Celtics aggressive lock down defense had more to do with it than his elbow and the Celtics will need that same tough defense in this game.
Kevin Garnett vs Antawn Jamison
So far, Kevin Garnett has dominated this matchup. Jamison got off to a good start in game 2, but KG was able to slow him down as the game went along. KG has been able to get his shot over Jamison at will and has gotten to the hoop quite often so far. It would be nice to see more of the same in this game.
Celtics Bench vs Cavaliers Bench
The benches have had an influence in both games so far. In game 1, the Cavs bench came through while the Celtics bench was pretty much invisible. In game 2, the Celtics bench, Sheed in particular, out played the Cavs bench. The Celtics will need to get production from guys off the bench once again in order to win this game. They can't win with the starters having to score all the points. The bench has to contribute on both ends of the court and help with the lock down defense as well.
Keys to the Game Defense Defense Defense It was the defense that won game 2. They held the Cavs to 40% and kept their stars from getting into any kind of rhythm. They must keep that defensive focus in this game and not allow any of the Cavs to get comfortable. Defense wins championships and they can't forget that for even a minute during the game.
Rebound Defense is the most important key with rebounding very close behind. The Celtics must be aggressive in going after rebounds and not allow the Cavs to get tip ins or second chance points. The Cavs have it a lot easier as they can go over the back and crash the boards without fear of picking up fouls. The Celtics out rebounded the Cavs 43-32 in game 2 and they won big in spite of the huge free throw disparity. That isn't a coincidence. The Celtics must win the rebounding battle.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to be focused from the tip off until the end of the game. They can't afford to come out flat or lose their focus for any period of time since the Cavs can get hot very quickly as we saw in game 1. Also, they have to expect a flurry of bad calls as we saw in game 2 that will try to give the game to the Cavs. The Celtics can't afford any let ups.
Play Team Ball - The Celtics won't win if they try to do too much individually. They must play team ball on both the offensive and defensive ends. They have to move the ball and find the open man. When the ball sticks too much, the Celtics struggle to score. The Celtics had 30 assists in game 2 and the ball movement was excellent. We need to see more of the same in this game.
Take Care of the Ball - The Cavs got 23 points off of turnovers in game 1. The Celtics turned the ball over 19 times in game 2 and that is too much. They have to try to take better care of the ball because the Cavs are very good at converting turnovers into points.
Home Court and Officials
The Celtics must make the home court work for them. They can't expect to get a lot of calls even though they are home, but they will have the home fans who will be rocking the Garden and they have familiarity. And Danny Ainge won't be the only one throwing things to try to distract their free throw shooters. The Celtics have to focus and protect their home court in spite of the calls or no calls.