Series key: Value the ball

May, 28, 2012
5/28/12
4:42
PM ET
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesTurnovers will leave the Celtics seeing a lot of this against the Heat.
MIAMI -- Every time the Boston Celtics play the Miami Heat, Celtics coach Doc Rivers reminds his team the same thing: Take care of the basketball.

The Heat are lethal in transition and Boston will not survive this series if they carelessly give the ball away.

"They're a team that we will lose in a track meet," admitted Ray Allen. "This team, they get up and down the floor. They want to score in transition. They pride themselves off of getting easy baskets and that's something that, defensively, we have to get back. But offensively, we can't play with the ball, we can't turn the ball over, we have to execute our offense. You take long shots and nobody gets back, they get those easy buckets, and they're hard to stop there. We have to score, offensively. We have to attack them just the same."

Consider this: LeBron James (72) and Dwyane Wade (57) are currently ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in individual transition points this postseason. When teams give away the basketball, James and Wade make them pay at the other end, often with loud dunks that, particularly at home, can change the momentum of the game.

But just how deadly are turnovers for Heat opponents?

The Heat are 7-0 this postseason when they score at least 14 transition points in a game, according to ESPN Stats and Info. In each of the Heat's three losses this postseason, they were outscored in transition. In their playoff wins, the Heat have averaged 19.7 transition points (+8.3 compared to their opponents) while shooting 62.3 percent overall and 47.6 percent beyond the 3-point arc in those situations. In the three losses, Miami is averaging 10.3 transition points (-4.0 compared to its opponents) while shooting 34.4 percent overall and not making a single 3-pointer in those situations.

After Boston's Game 7 triumph over the Philadephia 76ers on Saturday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers pointed to turnovers as a key culprit in their struggles and admitted the margin for error simply isn't big enough for Boston to overcome if it gets careless with the ball.

“We turned it over a couple of times and you know, you’ve watched us all year, it’s who we are at times," said Rivers. "I’ve said it all year: We don’t have a big margin of error. We play like that and, at times, when we struggle, teams make runs on us. And it’s hard, but that’s who we are. I don’t think we can win games by 20 or 25. With this group right now, with what we have going on, it’s hard to do. But our mindset is that we have to grind games. That’s how we go into games, with that thought, and I think that’s how we have to think.”

Keep an eye on turnovers and points generated off them. Maybe more than anything else, those stats will dictate how this series plays out.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksB. Bass 0.9