BOSTON Doc Rivers will never turn his nose up to a win, but following Tuesday's 86-83 victory at Cleveland, it was clear that the C's leader wasn't overly thrilled with how his team played. Indeed, it was a flawed performance by the Celtics (16-17). But of all that went wrong, a season-long bugaboo -- turnovers -- continues to be his greatest irritant.
"We have to be better than that," Rivers said moments following the win. "That was awful."
And as he began to rattle off the things that bothered him most, you know what was the first thing to roll off his lips?
Boston committed 18 of them that led to 20 points for the Cavs, yet another alarmingly high display of miscues which were in stark contrast to the first quarter in which the C's only committed two turnovers and led in the first by as many as 16 points.
Low turnovers. Big lead. Coincidence? Hardly.
Rivers isn't the only one bothered by the team's high turnover numbers this season.
"Sometimes I think we over-pass, try to be too unselfish," said Paul Pierce, who had a game-high six turnovers against Cleveland. "That's something we really gotta concentrate on, especially myself, especially (Rajon) Rondo, in doing a better job in that area."
It's especially important tonight against Milwaukee, the NBA's fifth-best team at forcing turnovers (16.1 per game)
Indeed, that will be one of the keys to watch tonight.
But it's not the only one.
Here are a few other factors that may come into play as the Celtics try to string together a second straight win in as many days against a Bucks team that's only 2.5 games behind Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- With Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) not expected to play, the Bucks will be tough to keep off the boards. Their front line starters include a pair of 6-foot-10 big men in Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova. Like Boston, they have had their share of injuries. And like the Celtics, they too have had problems rebounding the ball this season. Boston comes into tonight's game ranked dead-last in rebounds (46.6) per game, while the Bucks aren't that much better, grabbing 50.1 per game which ranks No. 22 in the league.
MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Kevin Garnett vs. Ersan Ilyasova or Drew Gooden. Defensively, Garnett will likely start off defending Ilyasova. But when the Celtics have the ball and Garnett is looking to score in the post, don't be surprised to see Gooden matched up with Garnett. How Garnett handles the cross matchup will go far in determining how well the Celtics play tonight.
PLAYER TO WATCH -- Rajon Rondo went into the all-star break struggling, and he didn't look any better in his return on Tuesday. In his last two games, Rondo has missed 11 of his 12 shot attempts. Against Cleveland on Tuesday, he had 11 assists but was scoreless. Rondo became just the fourth Celtic (C's president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was one of the others) to have a double-digit assists game without scoring a single point. The C's have proven they can win without Rondo scoring, but the poor shooting and high turnovers - he's had at least five turnovers in six of the 10 games he's played in this month - is a disturbing trend for both him and the Celtics as they try to get on track and improve their playoff position.
STAT TO TRACK -- Well we can say this for Milwaukee: Whatever they're not doing offensively, it has nothing to do with getting up shots. In fact, they take 84.9 shots per game, which is more than any team in the NBA this season. Their problem is they can't make shots, evident by them shooting 42.5 percent from the field which ranks 25th in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Celtics are literally at the other end of the spectrum, taking a league-low 75 shots per game but shooting 45.4 percent which ranks 7th in the NBA. The C's can live with the Bucks getting up a lot of shots - most teams have all season. But it's their field goal percentage that Boston must not allow to veer too far away from their season average.