2-on-2: Celtics vs. Wizards (Game 48 of 66)
1. Before we get to the Wizards, let's reflect on the season-long eight-game road trip. How would you assess Boston's 4-4 performance?
Payne: I think you have to be encouraged by Boston's 4-4 mark for the eight-game trip. If you think back to how much speculation there was about this team losing itself and breaking apart over the course of this trip, I think we ended up seeing the exact opposite. I think Boston showed a heck of a lot of heart in a number of games, and, besides the loss in Sacramento, can't really hang their heads about any of the defeats they endured. Had Mickael Pietrus not suffered his injury against the 76ers, I think there's a very legitimate chance the Celtics win that game and finish things at 5-3. Doc Rivers keeps talking about liking this team's mentality and spirit, and I'm on board with that. I think the Celtics showed the resiliency they'll need come playoff time, so they should be satisfied with their 4-4 mark.
Forsberg: No playoff-bound team sets out for a road trip thinking, 'Let's got .500!' but the Celtics can certainly take a lot of positives out of their travels. Sure, they remained inconsistent with their energy at times (at least in Sacramento), but they played with a lot of grit, endured the trade deadline, found an additional big man, and are in roughly the same position standings-wise as when they left Boston more than two weeks ago. Most importantly, the team really seemed to bond on the road. Those eight games felt more like two months than two weeks and now they catch a little bit of a lull in the schedule with a chance to find some momentum like earlier in the month. To put it simpler: this was a clearly a glass-half-full trip after the 4-4 performance.
2. Washington looks a little different this time around with Nene. What will you be focusing on in this matchup?
Payne: I can't remember the last time the Celtics played the Wizards when Washington boasted a legitimate, back-to-the-basket big man. Nene has a more matured and controlled game than JaVale McGee, at this point in their respective careers, and so Boston will have to be more focused as they seek to defend the post on Sunday. It always seemed like McGee was something of a wild card down low, as it was tough to predict what he was going to do with the ball once he got it, but with Nene, I think you have to be more cognizant of the fact that he's capable of backing you down, resorting to a legitimate post move, or stepping out and knocking down a short-to-mid-range jump shot, so the C's will just have to be ready to handle all that he's going to bring.
Forsberg: Things I'll be looking for 1) Will Randy Wittman attempt to challenge Flip Saunders' record of getting tossed in 104 seconds in the last meeting; 2) Will the fact that kinda-sorta-rival John Wall is on the floor be enough for Avery Bradley to lace 'em up despite the sprained left ankle; 3) If Bradley and Mickael Pietrus (concussion) are out, will Ray Allen (ankle) be able to go and who steps up in the Celtics' backcourt (Marquis Daniels? Keyon Dooling?); 4) How does the Wizards overhauled frontcourt look, not only without McGee, but with Andray Blatche shut down; 5) What kind of energy do the Celtics have after sleeping in their own beds the last two nights and having to play a not-so-glitzy opponent on a Sunday night (Boston is 3-1 at home on Sundays, but this doesn't have the same draw as the national games earlier in the day).
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