Once again for the second series in a row, the Celtics will try to close out an opponent in a game 6 on the road. The Celtics have yet to win on the road in 5 tries and hopefully the 6th time is a charm. The momentum is in the Celtics favor as they are coming off of one of their best efforts in the playoff in game 5.
The Celtics can win on the road. They were the best road team in the regular season. They won big pressure games in Detroit, LA, and the Texas Triangle and so we know they are capable of winning under pressure on the road. Why they haven't been able to get it done in the playoffs is anyone's guess. Hopefully they will build on the rebounding and defensive effort from game 5 to get a win in this game as well.
Rondo's play was key to game 5 and will once again be needed if the Celtics want to win this game on the road. Unfortunately, in past games on the road, Rondo has struggled. Hopefully he has turned the corner and will come out with a strong game in this one as well. Hopefully, Doc will either play Eddie House or play Sam Cassell sparingly when Rondo is resting as Sam has struggled in this series.
The Celtics need to close this series out tonight as the Pistons are just sitting at home and resting and getting healthy as they wait for the winner of this series. The Pistons are the only team in the second round to win on the road and although the Celtics could win the championship without winning on the road, the great teams do win on the road and the Celtics need to prove that they are one of the great teams with a win here.
Probable Starting Matchups PG: Rajon Rondo vs Delonte West SG: Ray Allen vs Wally Szczerbiak SF: Paul Pierce vs LeBron James PF: Kevin Garnett vs Ben Wallace C: Kendrick Perkins vs Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Sixth Man: James Posey vs Anderson Varejao
Injuries: Scott Pollard, Ankle, out
Eric Snow, ankle, out Daniel Gibson, shoulder, out
Key Matchups Rajon Rondo vs Delonte West In game 5, Rondo played circles around Delonte and was a big reason for the Celtics win. They will need him to come out just as aggressively in this game and Doc should stick with Rondo for most of the game.
Paul Pierce vs LeBron James LeBron broke out in the first half in game 5 for 23 but scored just 12 in the second half. The Celtics did a good job of defending him while still not ignoring his teammates. The Celtics will need to try to keep LeBron from taking over the game but also they will need to pay attention to his teammates who have proven that they also can beat them. Expect to see Pierce on LeBron with single coverage at times and at other times, they may double him, depending who is hot. Honorable Mention Ray Allen vs Wally Szczerbiak Ray still hasn't broken out of his shooting slump but has done other things to help the team such as that rebound late in game 5 to preserve the win. He also did a better job of defending Wally and keeping him from getting his shot off. It would be nice to see Ray go off offensively to make Wally have to expend some energy on defense. We will need points from Ray to pull this one out on the road. Keys to the Game Play 48 minutes The Celtics have stumbled out of the gate in the last couple of games. At home they were able to get back into it and pull away, but on the road, they haven't been able to overcome the pit that they found themselves in. Also, the Celtics have stumbled in the 4th quarter, allowing the Cavs to get back in games. They need to come out strong and play aggressively for 48 minutes if they want to win this. Rebound When the Celtics out rebound the Cavs, they win. It is as simple as that. Because rebounding is an indication of effort, When the Celtics are putting out the effort they need to win, they will also be going after the rebounds. They can not allow the Cavs to get 2nd and 3rd chance baskets if they want to win this.
Ball Movement When the Celtics move the ball and find the open man, their offense is hard to stop. When they bog down with each player looking for his shot, then the offense literally stops and they can't score. The way to beat the Cavs defense is to move the ball as they did in the 3rd quarter of game 5. Rondo did an excellent job of keeping the ball moving and setting up the offense in game 5 and he needs to continue to play that way in this game. Be Aggressive The Celtics can't settle for quick jumpers. They have to be aggressive and take the ball to the hoop to either get a high percentage shot or to draw the foul. The Cavs have been shooting twice as many free throws as the Celtics and it is hard to win in that situation. The Celtics need to be more aggressive on offense and get the Cavs in foul trouble. They also have to be aggressive in going after loose balls and rebounds. In games 3 and 4, it seemed as though the Celtics were sluggish and letting the Cavs beat them to loose balls and rebounds. They have to be more aggressive in this one if they want to win this.
Defense At home, the Celtics play a suffocating team defense but on the road, they have allowed the Cavs to shoot close to 50% and the defense hasn't been anywhere to be seen on the road. The Celtics have to focus and play the same kind of defense on the road as they do at home. X-Factor Focus and Intensity The Celtics need to maintain their focus on both ends of the court to close this series out here. They need to keep their defensive focus to get stops and they have to keep their offensive focus to move the ball and find the open man. They also have to come out with intensity and play with intensity throughout the game. If they lose focus, they will have to play a game 7 while the Pistons are resting up.