The Boston Celtics will have two areas of defensive focus in their film study and preparation for Game 5: Forcing Antonio McDyess to put the ball on the floor and finding some help for Ray Allen on Richard Hamilton.
In Game 4, McDyess was allowed to catch and shoot his midrange jump shot at will -- doing nothing more than taking a step to an open area and shooting from a stationary position. The Celtics just cannot allow this to happen in Game 5.
Kendrick Perkins is a key help defender for the Celtics, but he strayed too far from McDyess in Game 4. McDyess struggles if he has to put the ball on the floor, and he has shown in the playoffs that he will turn the ball over if forced to pass. Expect Perkins, Kevin Garnett and P.J. Brown to share some duties on McDyess and play him "dead on the catch" -- with their No. 1 priority to be in his face when he catches to make him dribble or pass.
To counter this move, look for the Pistons to isolate Rasheed Wallace in the post in Game 5 and use him as a first option, as they did more often in Game 4. Knowing that the focus on McDyess will prevent Boston's other big man from helping inside, Wallace will have a one-on-one battle in the post with more room to work.
In Game 5, Boston also must use other defenders to help on Hamilton, who is dominating his matchup with Allen. Hamilton is running Allen to death with his constant flashing, cutting and posting, which not only frees up Hamilton on offense but also wears Allen down and affects him on his offensive end of the floor.
Allen tried to chase Rip and match him cut for cut in Game 4, which played right into Hamilton's hands -- to which his 8-for-10 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the line will attest. In Game 5, the Celtics must use their big men to jam Hamilton on his cuts, hit him with forearms, give him hip checks and body shots to slow him up, reroute him and disrupt his timing. Look for some hard fouls on Hamilton off the ball, especially from Brown and Glen Davis, who have fouls to waste.
Plus, look for more pressure on Chauncey Billups from Rajon Rondo in Game 5. The Celtics did this in their Game 3 win but got away from it in Game 4. With Billups' speed and acceleration limited, Rondo can use his quickness to pressure the Pistons' quarterback and disrupt entry passes and timing.
Detroit's defense in Game 4 was a swarming mass of blocked shots, tips and deflections -- forcing turnovers and errant passes early in the game as the Celtics played way too fast and threw the ball over, behind and at the feet of receivers. The Celtics just could not match Detroit's early aggressiveness, and their spacing and timing were completely disrupted.
Boston has had success in this series with Garnett and Perkins in the low post, and look for the Celtics to establish Garnett inside early in Game 5. This allows Perkins to roam and get to the offensive glass, and also allows Garnett to use his passing skills, which are nullified if he shoots only perimeter jump shots.
Perkins also has shown an increasing ability to score inside in post isolations, and with Garnett a dangerous midrange shooter, Perkins can work one-on-one inside -- much like the Pistons will do with Wallace and McDyess.
Detroit was much more physical defending the post-ups in Game 4 -- pushing Garnett off the block and out to the post extended. Expect physical confrontations on any attempted post-ups in Game 5, as KG will demand the ball inside.
The Paul Pierce-Tayshaun Prince battle will be a key factor at both ends in Game 5. Both players are fighting for every inch of space and contesting each other's every move. With Prince able to contest Pierce's jump shots and pull-ups with his length, expect Pierce to continue to drive and draw contact -- trying to get to the foul line, which he did 11 times in Game 4. Pistons defenders are still showing a tendency to buy shot fakes and jump into the shooters, which Boston is sure to exploit in Game 5.
Prince's mechanics have broken down on his normally reliable jump shot; his follow-through is inconsistent on open shots and his trajectory is being changed by Pierce's effective contesting. Prince will also look to post and use his jump hook, which Pierce is forcing him to shoot from further out on the floor.
The Pistons had Rondo dribbling all over the floor in Game 4 but didn't allow him clear paths to the basket. Detroit just kept backing up and setting up road blocks in the lane, and Rondo was indecisive and reluctant to shoot from 15-18 feet, did not attempt a 3-point shot and shot only one free throw.
Better spacing and timing will help open up Rondo's driving lanes, and look for high screen/roll action to help Rondo turn the corner and take away some of the lane congestion. He will also look for the drag screen early in the shot clock, blowing through the traffic between the circles to get to the paint and create.
With control of the series at stake, look for Boston to run more action that includes all three of their best players -- with KG screening for Allen, Garnett popping or posting after the screen and Pierce cutting off Garnett for the handoff after the catch.
Game 4 was the most physical game of this series -- and expect Game 5 to take the aggression level up another notch. Expect both teams to try to establish defensive dominance early, which has been the key to winning in this series. Look for the crowd to energize the Celtics and for their bench to play a big role in this one.
PREDICTION: Celtics win Game 5
Mike Moreau is the director of basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He also serves as an NBA analyst for Hoopsworld.
Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.