Since 1985, when the NBA Finals changed to the 2-3-2 format, the ten times when the series was tied at 1-1, the team that wins Game 3 has always won the title. But forget all that: The Celtics cannot go down 3-1. To make sure that doesn’t happen, here’s what they must do:
KEY #1: Get Pierce going
Although Rajon Rondo has become the Celtics best all-around player, they simply cannot beat the Lakers without one of the “Big 3” having a big game. Boston fans are crossing their fingers that Paul Pierce can be the one to step up. As Kevin Garnett said yesterday, “We need Paul to be Paul Pierce, The Truth.” In Game 3, Pierce and Ray Allen were far from that. Pierce and Allen went a combined 5-of-25 from the field (although that terrible percentage was mainly because of Allen, who went 0-for-evening, missing all 13 shots that he attempted). No need to worry about Ray, though. He’s a shooter, he’ll bounce back. But the C’s need to find a way to get Pierce going. Whether it’s having him moving more without the ball or coming off screens, the Celtics have to do something to free him up from Ron Artest.
KEY #2: Rebound/Early Offense
The reason for the Celtics success this postseason is Rondo. When Rondo’s plus/minus is +2 or better, the Celtics are 13-0 this postseason. When it is +1, even, or in the negatives, Boston is 0-6. With two seven-footers in the paint, and Kobe and Artest on the perimeter it’s hard to score on the Lakers in the half court. The effective way for teams to score against L.A. is by attacking them with early offense. Whether it’s a easy fast-break layup for Pierce, or a open three in transition by Ray Allen, if the C’s can get Rondo running it’s hard to beat them. Rondo in the open court is a nightmare. In Game 1 he struggled, only posting 13 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists, but I don’t think that’s because he wasn’t attacking. I believe it was more because of the lack of rebounding. In order for Rondo to get the ball in transition, Boston’s bigs (Perkins, K.G., Wallace, and Davis) need to get defensive rebounds and get quick outlet passes to him. Boston is at their best when they are locking up on defense and getting the rock to Rondo so that he can create early offense for himself or his teammates.
KEY #3: Stay out of Foul Trouble
The Big 3 has to stay out of foul trouble. Game 1 it was Ray Allen, as he only played 28 minutes and scored 12 points on eight shots. In Game 2 it was Garnett, limited to only 24 minutes and only posting six points and four rebounds. In Game 3 it was Pierce, who ended up playing 34 minutes, but his attack-style offensive abilities were limited as foul trouble got to him during key stretches. As coach Doc Rivers reportedly said to Pierce yesterday during the Celtics’ film session, “Paul, that’s a driving lane. You’ve got to get to the basket.” Pierce’s response was, “I was worried about getting another foul.”