Jeff Nelson went to the Boston Garden more than a dozen times this season, so he can answer this question better than almost anyone.
How do you beat the Boston Celtics?
Nelson, a Bradford resident and Reading High teacher, was a free-lancing advance scout for three NBA franchises — Denver, Washington and Utah — this past season.
Those teams, with Nelson's help, were an eye-opening 5-3 against the Celtics this season.
Rather than beating the Celtics, Nelson was asked a different question:
What's wrong with the Celtics?
And better yet, how can they fix it?
"They've looked very old in such a short time," said Nelson. "Kevin Garnett is worn out at the end of games from playing too many minutes. Other than Game 2, Sam Cassell (0 for 11 in last two games) has not delivered on offense and kept the Cavs honest.
"The Cavs are daring Rajon Rondo, Cassell, and Kendrick Perkins to shoot and they are missing."
Nelson said the home-and-road discrepancies — the Celts are 6-0 at home and 0-5 on the road in the playoffs — are not a big surprise.
"It seems like most teams have risen their level of play at home — 15-1 this round for home teams (through Monday). I'd bet Andover High and Central Catholic high school teams have a better home record than road record the last few seasons," said Nelson. "Players gather more energy from a home crowd. It's human nature."
But we expected more from these Celtics, particularly after their regular season record (66-16) and road record (an NBA best 31-10).
Nelson has noticed Ray Allen's inability to create shots for himself is costing the Celtics, too, which might mean its time for Doc Rivers to go to the bench.
"The Celtics need to run more to get easy baskets," said Nelson. "And the time has come for Eddie House to play some of Ray Allen's minutes," said Nelson. "Ray cannot put the ball on the floor and score. The Cavs are closing out on him and forcing him to drive. And he's not a good ballhandler."
Nelson said Monday night's Game 4 performance, despite the loss, was at least a move in the right direction after disappointing road losses in Atlanta and Game 3 in Cleveland.
"I liked they way they started the game by establishing Kevin Garnett early," said Nelson. "I also liked how they attacked with Pierce when he had the mismatch in third quarter when Sasha Pavlovic was covering him because LeBron James had three fouls on him."
In fact, Pierce needs to be part of any Celtics solution if they are to advance past Cleveland, never mind Detroit or San Antonio.
"Pierce has to play better," said Nelson. "He has to score 25 points or more for the Celtics to win. He is their best all-around player and it's time for time for him to step up."
Nelson wonders if Garnett's role is over-rated because of his "MVP-like" season and the fact that some people compare him favorably to past Celtics greats.
"I think Cedric Maxwell should reconsider his comments that Garnett is close to Larry Bird, if not better, when it comes to Celtics all-time greats," said Nelson. "The best player can't score two points over the last 25 minutes of a vital playoff game."
As for the Celtics' immediate playoff future, Nelson believes the Celtics have enough to beat the Cavs, especially with two home games remaining.
But after that?
"I don't think they can beat Detroit, especially the way they're playing," said Nelson. "Unless Pierce takes on a bigger role and plays great, beating Cleveland, I believe, is as far as they'll go."
Nelson's Celtic keys
1. Run and attack on misses; don't slow it down.
2. Attack the offensive boards and get some easy hoops, especially Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
3. Play Rajon Rondo in the fourth quarter not Sam Cassell. Unlike Cassell, Rondo can score easy baskets off steals or in transition.
4. Garnett needs to go to the basket and get the Cavs in foul trouble. At 7-foot-1 he needs to stop taking so many 18-foot jump shots.