The Celtics are still looking to their big men as a key determining factor regarding their playoff fitness.
But they know, too, that one of their smaller players will have a major say in how things go.
It is still very important that Shaquille O'Neal be able to give the Celtics a significant contribution, but it's become clear that point guard Rajon Rondo is one of the best barometers of Boston success. And Sunday in Miami, he came up with just six points and five assists in the 23-point loss to the Heat.
"When he pushes the ball for four quarters, we are tough to beat," said Paul Pierce, before the Celtics produced just three fast break points. "Especially in the fourth quarter.
"That's one thing I think we tend to get away from is running the floor. We have to get stops also. It goes hand in hand. When he is pushing it, we have to get stops and when he's playing that way, we are tough in the fourth quarter."
Doc Rivers has challenged Rondo to get to the free throw line more this season, and after a midseason push in that direction he's again become inconsistent with his drives.
"It's hard," said Rivers. "To do that every night is very difficult. I get that."
But the Celtics need Rondo to use his speed and ability to get into the lane.
"It makes us quicker," said Rivers. "We get easy baskets. It also takes away their ability to try to help. It takes what they're trying to do away from them."
HEAT 100, CELTICS 77: The Celtics scored 11 of the game's first 13 points, and then they took a dive. The host Heat pounded the Celtics and capitalized on their turnovers to make this a runaway Sunday afternoon. Miami outrebounded the Celtics, 42-26, outscored them in the paint, 44-26, and had 18 second-chance points to Boston's three. It was the Heat's first win over the Celtics in four meetings this season.
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