- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Can Rajon Rondo and the Celtics race past the Grizzlies on Sunday?If you're looking for a Super Bowl appetizer, the Boston Celtics (12-10, 8-6 home) host the Memphis Grizzlies (12-11, 5-8 away) in a Sunday matinee at TD Garden (noon, CSN). With the early start and -- let's face it, most of the attention on the Patriots vs. Giants -- we're playing a lightning-round version of 3-on-3 with ESPN Boston's Greg Payne and CelticsHub's Brian Robb to preview the matchup. But first, allow Celtics coach Doc Rivers to explain why this condensed schedule is so crazy:
"The league is just different [this year]," said Rivers. "Every night, it seems like you’re facing a different type of opponent, it’s not like the cookie-cutter NBA. You’ve got small teams, you have athletic teams, and you have power teams. It's a strange group of teams this year, for whatever reason. Memphis poses that problem, they are a great rebounding team; they force turnovers -- they are the best in the league; they want to get in transition, they want to open the game up and get into a 1-on-1 game. You can fall into that and you’re going to lose to them. They are a difficult team to prepare for."
1. What is Boston's biggest concern facing Memphis?
Payne: Athletic depth on the wing. The Grizzlies have a number of guys they can throw at Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, including Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, and Sam Young.
Robb: Health combined with a competitive Western Conference. The talent is clearly there, but a solid playoff seed will be tough to manage with Zach Randolph sidelined a couple more weeks and so many teams playing well around them. Like we saw last year though, this will be a team to watch when they get healthy.
Forsberg: Turnovers. The Grizzlies lead the league in steals (243) and opponent turnovers (416). Rajon Rondo is nursing that bad wrist and gave it away five times in his return on Friday. The Celtics must value the ball and make the most of possessions.
2. Do the Celtics (still) miss Tony Allen?
Payne: No. Avery Bradley.
Robb: Without a doubt. Allen has continued to improve on both ends of the floor since he left Boston, providing the defensive energy and, surprisingly, now some consistent offense (averaging 10 points per game; 17.3 over in his last three games). Given the fact the C's would have likely retained Allen had they forked over an extra year or a couple extra million dollars, it still has to be a bit upsetting to C's fans.
Forsberg: Yes. As good as the likes of Bradley and Mickael Pietrus have been at harassing guards, the Celtics haven't had a bench defender who could shutdown opposing 3's the way Allen did. And considering how they were left scrambling for swingman depth at the trade deadline last season, they absolutely miss him.
3. Prediction time: Who wins Sunday (Celtics and Super Bowl)?
Payne: Celtics and Patriots. Party time in Boston.
Robb: Same score for both games? Wait, that won't work. Let's go for a Boston sweep though. C's, 87-85 in a defensive "thriller," and Pats get revenge, 23-20.
Forsberg: Might sound crazy, but the Celtics could have the more challenging matchup (the lack of Randolph makes it a little less daunting). Let's go with Memphis in the early game (turnovers bite the C's) and Patriots in the feature presentation.
If you're looking for a Super Bowl appetizer, the Boston Celtics (12-10, 8-6 home) host the Memphis Grizzlies (12-11, 5-8 away) in a Sunday matinee at TD Garden (noon, CSN).