Celtics-Pelicans preview: Get to the rim

Celtics-Pelicans preview: Get to the rim
March 16, 2014, 11:15 am
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This is it.

In what has been a woeful season out West, Boston will get two more cracks at beating a team in the Western Conference on their home floor.

Boston comes into tonight's game having lost all 13 of their road games this season to Western Conference clubs. Dating back to last season, Boston has lost 18 straight to teams out West by an average of 11.2 points per game.

The last time Boston walked off the floor triumphantly against a team out West was Feb. 25, 2013 following a 110-107 overtime win at Utah.

A strong showing that night by a trio of former Celtics (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee) catapulted Boston to the win.

Tonight the Celtics face a New Orleans club that has done their part to contribute to the Celtics road woes.

The last time the two met, New Orleans won 87-86 on a tip-in by All-Star Anthony Davis on March 20.

In addition, the Pelicans have won five straight over Boston and nine of their last 11 at home against Eastern Conference teams.

Celtics players are well aware of their struggles this season on the road -- and in general -- against teams out West.

But their focus tonight as it has been most of this season, is to improve, remain competitive and try to learn from their mistakes of the past -- like Friday's 87-80 loss at home to Phoenix which ended with the Suns closing the game with a 7-0 run.

"It's a game of runs," Boston's Kelly Olynyk said afterwards. "You're going to miss some shots and make some during the night. You have to make sure you get the momentum, it's the biggest thing. You can't hit that wall. When you hit it and that adversity, you have to play through it."

Here are some other keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: This is not the night or opponent for the Celtics to get complacent against and settle for jumpers. Attacking the Pelicans while going to the basket has paid off handsomely for most teams, evident by New Orleans opponents averaging 26.6 free throw attempts per game which ranks No. 2 in the league this season.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Avery Bradley vs Eric Gordon
As Bradley tries to regain his pre-injury form in these final weeks of the season, facing Gordon is a good test for him. Gordon is one of the NBA's more under-rated scorers, who like Bradley, has had a career marred by injuries. When healthy, he's one of the toughest players in the league to defend.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo isn't expected to play tomorrow night at Dallas, so look for him to register high-30s or low-40s in terms of minutes played. He's going to get his numbers, but Rondo has to do a better job of making sure the offense doesn't get as stagnant as we saw in their 87-80 loss to Phoenix on Friday.

STAT TO TRACK: Rebounding has been a huge part of Boston finding a way to hang around despite shooting the ball poorly on most nights. The Celtics rank 12th in the NBA in rebounding at 43 per game, and seventh when it comes to offensive rebounding with 12 per game average. New Orleans has had their struggles, but limiting opponents on the boards hasn't been one of them. Foes of the Pelicans have averaged 41.5 rebounds per game, the ninth-lowest average in the NBA. You can attribute much of New Orleans' success on the boards to All-Star Anthony Davis who is averaging 21 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots per game.