Scouts identify what C's have to do vs. Heat


Scouts identify what C's have to do vs. Heat

By A.Sherrod Blakely

MIAMI We've heard from Doc Rivers about what the Boston Celtics will need to do in order to win. His players have chimed in with their thoughts as well.

We at wanted to add a third voice to the discussion - NBA scouts.

In conversations with three different NBA scouts, all from the Eastern Conference, we offer up their take on what the C's have to do in order to defeat the Miami Heat in their second-round playoff series.

Let's get physical

Even though LeBron James has arguably the most physically imposing body among the players in this series not named Shaquille O'Neal, roughing him up a bit early on might be the way to go.

"He hates that," one scout said. "You know he's going to get his. He always gets his. But putting him on his ass, early, sends a message that you're not going to just let him have his way. It also gets him to thinking more about the contact on drives than finishing. A distracted LeBron isn't a very good LeBron."

Make LeBron James and Dwyane Wade defend, honestly

There's a reason why both James and Wade are often seen in highlights making spectacular blocks and steals. Because Miami plays an attacking style of defense, frequently James and Wade tend to help off their defensive assignments in anticipation of another player taking a shot.

"You have to put them in as many pick-and-rolls, screen action plays as possible," another scout said. "Otherwise, they'll just keep on cheating over defensively."

Said another scout, "You look at most of the high-energy plays they make defensively. It's not what they do to the man they're guarding; it's what they do to the guy that didn't see them lurking."

Boston's ball movement will be instrumental in forcing both to play their men more tightly.

Rebound, rebound rebound

Boston's ability to hold its own on the boards will go far in determining how well their transition defense will perform against a Heat team that has two of the game's most explosive finishers in Wade and James.

"Jermaine (O'Neal) has been a really solid defender for the Celtics since he came back, but he has to pick it up on the boards," another scout said. "It's never been one of JO's strengths, but he's had some games where I don't think he even grabbed a single rebound. The Celtics won't win this series unless he picks it up on the boards."

Backup power

While much has been made of Miami's Big Three, one scout said their bench is grossly under-rated.

"They get more from their backups than you might think," he said. "The reason you don't hear about them, is because of the Big Three. But they have at least two or three guys coming off the bench that the Celtics have to be worried about."

Mario Chalmers has shown he can shoot the Heat into and out of a game, at times. His ability to stretch the floor will make him a player the Celtics need to keep tabs on. Although he is a better defender than Mike Bibby, he too has the potential to be exploited by the C's offense.

"When they run cross matches, you can have his man look to post him up," one scout said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see him switching on Ray sometimes, and Ray immediately goes down in the paint looking to post him up."

The player all three scouts mentioned as a player the Celtics had to worry about, was James Jones.

The reigning 3-point shooting champion is arguably the Heat's best long-range scoring option.

Miami is shooting just 28.9 percent on 3s in the playoffs, but Jones has connected on 42.1 percent of his postseason 3-point attempts.

"I'm a shooter," Jones told "Coach (Erik Spoelstra) told me that my job is to make shots. That's the best way I can help this team."

One scout viewed Delonte West as the biggest X-factor for Boston off the bench.

"He's the only guy they have off that bench that can defend multiple positions, at a high level," one scout said. "His ability to help out defensively on Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, is going to be a big deal if the Celtics win this series."

Another scout was big on Jeff Green and the potential he has to impact this series.

"Anything you get from him, has to be seen as a positive," the scout said. "He'll defend LeBron some, but he'll also defend Chris Bosh some as well. They need him to step his game up, especially on defense."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.