Boston Celtics: Keys To a Deep Postseason Run for Kevin Garnett and Co.
Things have gone up and down for the Boston Celtics over the past couple of games, but the team is hopefully only following the motions a newly assembled unit must endure in order to go deep into the NBA postseason.
First, there was the 5-0 run the Celtics went on as Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic made their debuts. The Celtics’ schedule permitted the team to face off against some less than stellar teams, but five wins are five wins.
From there, the Celtics went on to drop their next two games against the Los Angeles Clippers and a potential first round playoff foe in Philadelphia. The team wasn’t going to win every game, so it’s not a big deal to see them lose a game or two.
This is because the Celtics got back on track, to say the least, against Milwaukee on Sunday, holding the Bucks to a franchise-best for points allowed, 56 points. You could not have asked for a better outcome coming off of two straight losses.
Finally, Monday’s game against the Nets handed the Celtics another loss, despite New Jersey being a lackluster team. The only saving grace for the Celtics is that this loss was on day two of a back-to-back.
They’re 6-3 since the trade, but 1-3 in their last four, tied with Bulls for the top seed. So drawing from what we’ve seen over the past nine games, let’s examine the keys to the Celtics making a deep postseason run.
Nenad Krstic Needs to Keep Starting
It’s at the point right now where anyone who thought Nenad Krstic would be this good (12.7 PPG, 55 FG%) on the offensive side for the Celtics should think about a career in coaching. Please show me your NCAA bracket while we’re at it.
Not only has Krstic been an offensive upgrade, he’s holding his own on the defensive end as well.
He’s averaging 10.0 RPG over the past four games, which is a good thing, but his interior defense is starting to come into play as the Celtics lose games.
This was the worry of many Celtics’ fans when the team traded for Nenad. His fast start clouded some of that over, but now some holes in his game are becoming apparent.
Still the Celtics and Krstic have 17 games left in the regular season to continue to work and improve together.
What it equates to is when Shaq comes back, Krstic, defense or not, needs to be the one to be on the floor at tip-off. He’s locked in on offense and works well with the first unit. Shaq can relieve Krstic if he struggles defending the bigger bodies, but the Celtics should do best with Nenad starting.
Carlos Arroyo Needs to Pace the Second Unit
Carlos Arroyo wasn’t good enough to the play on the Miami Heat, but is apparently good enough to play for the Celtics who are better than the Heat.
It’s funny how these things work themselves out, but Arroyo is playing really well since coming aboard.
He’s a great penetrator which draws defenders towards him, allowing him to dish to an open man. He’s also developing a trend of finding a big under the hoop and rifling off a laser beam to them for the dunk.
Given the inconsistency of Delonte West’s health, Celtics fans shouldn’t be afraid to embrace Arroyo as their new permanent backup point guard.
The Core Needs to Stay Healthy
Everyone already knows this. It’s been beaten to death more times than “LeBron Shames” jokes.
However, it is worth noting that the Celtics playoff rotation won’t be more than ten people. Playoff rotations rarely exceed that, so the core players need to be the ones to stay healthy.
This hasn’t been the case the entire season in one form or another.
The Celtics stumbled without Glen Davis, have been average without Rondo, missed KG for a number of games, Shaq has missed time and Delonte is perpetually injured.
If the Celtics can ever get their top ten guys active for a couple of games in the regular season it should go a long way towards their playoff push.
Time to Grow Up
This is more of a pun than a shot at Big Baby. Think of it more as "time to step up" for Glen Davis.
Baby is the anchor on the second unit. Without him, the team is very unstable when Garnett and company are getting their rest.
He needs to continue to look for his own shot, be strong on the offensive glass and draw charges, a skill he has become the poster child for.
And despite all of the Krstic, Shaq controversy that will brew when/if O’Neal ever sets foot back on the court, Baby is the fourth quarter center. He’s the one team relies on in the middle when the game is on the line.
He needs to continue to show it and undoubtedly will.
The Big 3 Need to Start Being the Big 3 Again
The stats and the record will tell you that not much has changed for the Big Three since the trading deadline passed in February, but something is definitely off with Pierce, Allen and KG.
My first guess would be the intensity level. I think the new recruits have diluted the Big Three’s intensity level to the point where they are just another team. Just a theory.
If it’s not their intensity level than what could it be? I’m not about to answer this, because I truly don’t know.
What I do know is that the Celtics need to stop losing to below .500 teams and when they beat them, beat them by more than a handful of points.
An intense, determined and focused team is the true key to another Celtics’ championship. Everyone needs to buck up and start getting on the same page for that to happen.