The Boston Celtics kicked off their season Tuesday night as the NBA’s featured opening game against the defending champions Miami Heat. In a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals from last season, viewers witnessed unaltered results as the Heat were able to hold off a late run from the C’s.
We saw clear indications of which areas the Celtics will need to improve in order to get back to the Conference Finals again this year: defense, both on the perimeter and inside; as well as scoring from the post.
The Heat shot 50% from 3-point land and were able to score easy buckets at the rim without much resistance. With a total of 2 blocks for the entire game- both from Kevin Garnett- the Celtics are clearly lacking depth in the middle. Other than KG and starting power forward Brandon Bass, rookie Jared Sullinger was the only other true post to see any minutes in the game (Sullinger logged only 8 total). Without confidence in his reserve posts, Doc Rivers opted to go small with Jeff Green at power forward; however, Green struggled from the field (0-4) and only grabbed 3 rebounds.
Scoring for the Celtics didn’t seem to be much of an issue as they were able to put up 107 points. Paul Pierce looked like his usual self, leading the team in scoring with 23 and Rondo was able to contribute 20 points, 13 assists, and 7 rebounds. New-look guards Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa combined for a solid 24 points off the bench in their debuts. It is clear that the Celtics have an abundance of options on the perimeter and their depth will only increase when Avery Bradley is able to make his way back into the lineup.
KG is still a very good player, but Boston can’t quite count him to score like he used to and play center for the majority of the game. Brandon Bass is more of a blue-collar player and is not used to having to score the ball as much as Coach Rivers would like. The Celtics will need one or two big men to step up and provide relief for the starters. Sullinger seems to be the front-runner for this job but has only played in one NBA game so far and was a little slow defensively against the heat. Other players who will get an opportunity to step into the rotation include Darko Milicic, Fab Melo, and Chris Wilcox once he has fully recovered from heart surgery.
At the end of the day, the Celtics do not have a guy that they can count on to go to work on the block and slow the pace of the game. This could become a problem if they are not able to find a way to get easy buckets inside when needed. With that being said, Boston is still looked at as the second best team in the East and the biggest threat for the Heat. The Celtics will look to get back on track Friday night in their home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks.