The Miami Heat struggled to contain Rajon Rondo in last year's Eastern Conference finals.
If you've watched a lot of basketball, all too often when one envisions a great basketball team, you think of a team that glides in for easy baskets, dunks the basketball, and gets out on the fast break.
Great basketball teams will do that, but a great basketball team, a truly great one, doesn't always have to.
When the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship this past June they beat up on an Oklahoma City Thunder team that needed to get easy baskets. They may have needed those easy hoops, but in the end they couldn't get them.
It took Miami seven games to get to the Finals. To get there Miami had to go through the Boston Celtics. The Celtics presented a more serious challenge to Miami.
Not only did Boston need to get some easy hoops, Miami's defense was not as effective at preventing them from doing so.
Boston was old, they had some injuries, and lacked depth. Generally when this is the case a team will want to slow the pace of the game, conserve energy, grind out wins.
The 2011-2012 Celtics had another set of obstacles. They were a terrible rebounding team, and a streaky shooting team as well.
Yet Miami struggled to prevent Boston from getting easy baskets. They especially struggled to defend Rajon Rondo, who had several big games in the seven game series.
In the end Miami did prevail, and Boston entered the summer with a clear cut mission.
Come up with a way to beat the Heat.
It all starts with Rajon Rondo.
He's a tough matchup for any team in the NBA. For a Miami Heat team that features an aging Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, who is neither as fast or as strong as Rajon Rondo, it creates a matchup nightmare.
So the Celtics have put together a new backcourt and added some key additions to their front court, all in hopes of exacerbating the matchup problems that Rondo causes, to the point where they're systemic throughout the Heat.
The goal is to take the weaknesses from last season, and further expose and exploit them this coming season.
The Celtics are going to try and push the ball against Miami. The new backcourt features Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and will add Avery Bradley to the mix sometime before midseason. It is not the most gifted backcourt offensively.
Defensively this backcourt will be very tough. Fast breaks are usually the product of great defense, a steal, a tipped pass, a tough rebound, or a blocked shot.
Bradley and Rondo might just be one of the best defensive back courts in the NBA. Courtney Lee is a very good perimeter defender, and Jason Terry has always been adept at getting steals.
The other key aspect of fast breaks? Rebounding.
The Celtics managed to get some easy baskets last year, and they stunk at rebounding—they were the league's worst rebounding team.
Any improvement will help, and the Celtics should be better. For one, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green, both of whom are solid rebounders, are back and healthy.
Boston drafted Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, both men will help on the glass.
Add in Kevin Garnett who will be entering his first full season as a starting center and future-Hall-of-Fame small forward Paul Pierce, and the Celtics rebounding and defense should be improved.
The Heat are not all that talented in the low post, or at the point guard position.
The Celtics were able to exploit those weaknesses as well as any opponent in the playoffs last year, but it wasn't enough to beat the Heat.
Now the Celtics have increased their strength at guard as well as improved their rebounding and overall team depth.
It might not be enough to ultimately beat Miami, but don't be shocked if the Celtics once again provide Miami with their stiffest competition over the course of next season.