2-on-2: Celtics vs. Bobcats (Game 49 of 66)
1. Let's be honest, Charlotte is a hot mess. Beyond being a back-to-back on the road, name a reason for the C's to be concerned about this game?
Payne: I think the Celtics realize the Bobcats are a hot mess, and that could be their downfall right there. This is one game where the C's really can't afford to play down to their opponent. It won't be the fatigue of the schedule that hinders their play in this one, but it very well could be their inability to maintain the correct mindset throughout. There's no question the Celtics are the superior team, so they need to come out and play like it.
Forsberg: There's no doubt that this one's got trap game written all over it if the Celtics don't put in the required effort. So it's likely imperative that the Celtics get a spark from somewhere beyond Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, or Paul Pierce. It's probably expecting too much for Avery Bradley to have another humdinger after Sunday's career day, so it's on someone like Brandon Bass or Marquis Daniels or Keyon Dooling to give the team a lift. But let's face it, the Bobcats are an abysmal offensive team and so long as the Celtics defend the pick-and-roll -- about the only thing Charlotte doesn't rank below average or worse in, according to Synergy Sports data -- this should be a breezy night (just remember that Boston has a way of making things difficult for itself).
2. The Celtics are 6-1 this season without Ray Allen (and you can make the case that, if not for the Mickael Pietrus injury in Philadelphia, they might be 7-0). From the just-throwing-it-out-there file: Should the C's consider Allen in a reserve role?
Payne: I don't think so, mainly because there's such great chemistry between Allen, Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo. I don't think it'd be beneficial to the Celtics to disrupt that harmony, and when Pietrus is healthy, he brings enough offense to the second unit to help that group find success. The Celtics' record minus Allen is certainly interesting, but to me that says more about the guys filling in for him. Clearly the C's have had guys step up during his absences, and that's definitely encouraging, with the latest effort being Avery Bradley's stellar night against the Wizards last night.
Forsberg: Just wanted to see if you'd take the bait, Payne. No, if this season is going to be built on riding the Big Four and the potential last rodeo, you absolutely don't mess with what's worked for the past five seasons. You can make the case that Boston is 6-1 in games that Ray Allen has missed because of three of those games came against New Jersey (twice) and Washington (another one was the ridiculous comeback against Orlando). Yes, it's absolutely clear that the Celtics play better first-unit defense when you sub Allen for Bradley or Pietrus, but the offense typically lags without its sharpshooter (and we even saw that Sunday against the Wizards when Bradley wasn't sparking the offense early on with his cuts). The one thing the record this season without Allen does suggest is, if Allen comes back next season, it might be an intriguing idea to move him to the second unit and give the bench its long-coveted offensive boost.
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