The Miami Heat have succeeded in making the Celtics look like an aging, slow and banged-up team through the first two games of the Eastern Conference Semifinal. Tonight, the Celtics return to the TD Garden to host game three where they hope to turn the series around.
It appears the Celtics will get a shot in the arm from Shaquille O'Neal who is expected to be in uniform tonight. It remains to be seen what kind difference the "Big Shamrock" will make against Miami. Shaq has played just over five minutes since Feb. 1 and will be making his Celtics playoff debut tonight. Perhaps Shaq can give the Celtics a presence in the paint they desperately need. Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade haven't face much resistance in driving to the basket. They've had a clear path to the bucket in the first two games. Maybe Shaq can make a difference, but I wouldn't expect more than 10 to 15 minutes of floor time from him.
Celtics will need more production from Kevin Garnett. KG is averaging just 11 points and seven rebounds in the series, and has yet to take a free throw. He must win the one-on-one match up Chris Bosh, which prior to the start of the series was viewed as an advantage for the Celtics. That hasn't been the case.
More offense from Garnett will ease the offensive pressures from Paul Pierce, who is being asked to lead the Celtics scoring attack and find a way to keep James in check. No easy task. Like Shaq, Pierce is battling a sore Achilles' tendon. Pierce has taken just two free throws in the series. As a whole, the Celtics have settled on taking shots from the perimeter and that hasn't resulted in many free throws.
The offense still runs through Rajon Rondo, and although he tallied 20 points and 12 assists in game two, he hasn't been the difference maker we saw in the Knick's series. The Celtics can't afford to commit turnovers against the opportunist Heat. Rondo has eight in the series. He'll also need to find ways to get Ray Allen more involved in the offense. Allen scored 25 points on 5 for 8 shooting from three-point territory in game one. He scored just 7 points and just 1 for 2 from long range.
The KG-era led Celtics hadn't lost two-straight playoff games until this series. We'll see how they respond tonight.
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
Series: Miami leads, 2-0
Broadcast info: ABC