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Paul Pierce and the Celtics look to rebound in Tuesday's Game 2 in Atlanta.The Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks resume their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Game 2 on Tuesday night at Philips Arena (7:30 p.m., NBA TV). To preview the matchup, we play a game of 2-on-2 with colleague Greg Payne.
1. How much will the Celtics miss Rajon Rondo in this game?
Payne: The Celtics will certainly miss Rondo, but they're still going to win tonight. Game 1 was a rough outing all the way around, and I think we'll see a group of players ready to rally around each other, as well as the fact that they'll be without the usual key to their engine. I think they'll miss his ability to drive into the lane and create for everyone else more than anything, as guys like Avery Bradley have really benefited from cutting towards the basket and having the ball basically waiting there for them.
Forsberg: I don't see any middle ground here, either the Celtics come out inspired by the latest batch of adversity and put up an eyebrow-raising amount of points (even though that seems absurd given their sluggish pace in Game 1 and no Rondo tonight) or they really struggle to initiate the offense, get frustrated early on, and have to play catch-up yet again. It's really on Paul Pierce here. Avery Bradley will have to bring the ball up the floor, but as long as he can simply get it to Pierce and put things in motion, then the Celtics won't miss Rondo as much as we probably think. Either way, shots have to fall for Boston or else those easy buckets that Rondo can generate will be sorely missed.
2. What else will you be focused on in Game 2, Celtics vs. Hawks?
Payne: It'll be Pierce's night tonight. He acknowledged a need to play better after his underwhelming performance in Game 1, and with Rondo out, we'll most likely see him transform into more of a point forward, and he'll take the reigns on offense. He'll work pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops with Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass, and I firmly expect him to take at least 10 free throws tonight. He really needs to utilize his ability to get to the basket and draw fouls to help slow the game down, and he'll have to find the right balance of creating his own offense and getting everyone else involved. The good news is Pierce knows how to keep the flow of the team's offense going while not falling out of rhythm himself.
Forsberg: I'm still locked in on the supporting cast. Let's face it, guys like Bass and Mickael Pietrus absolutely have to produce tonight. Bass somehow went the entire first half without taking a shot in Game 1, while Pietrus was scoreless off the bench. Neither is acceptable this evening. Bass' numbers have tailed off in recent postseasons and he needs to show that he's a big-game player. Pietrus typically thrives in the postseason, so you can't help but wonder how he's feeling physically (that knee bothered him late in the year from heightened activity). If Pietrus can get that 3-point shot going, he has potential to be the Game 2 savior. As Pietrus said in this morning's shootaround: "If the 3 is there tonight, just take them, make them. That’s it." If only it were truly that easy.