2-on-2: Celtics vs. Hawks (Game 3)
1. What are you expecting from Rajon Rondo in Game 3?
Payne: I'm expecting a triple-double. While Tuesday was Paul Pierce's night, tonight will belong to Rondo. Despite him not being more apologetic for getting ejected from Game 2, I firmly expect him to make it up to his teammates by coming through with a truly dominating performance tonight. It'll be his first chance to atone for his mistake and, when you factor in the momentum the Celtics are rolling with right now, it's easy to envision Rondo stepping back in and propelling Boston to an easier Game 3 victory tonight.
Forsberg: Rondo was adamant Thursday that he wouldn't press on Friday, trying to atone for missing Game 2 due to suspension. But even coach Doc Rivers noted that the best way to truly thank his teammates would be for Rondo to go out and lead his squad on Friday night. As long as he doesn't try to overexert himself, Rondo should dazzle. He was the best player on the floor in Game 1 before his ejection for bumping an official. The Celtics have been pretty cold from the floor overall and Rondo's return -- along with a friendlier environment -- might be just what they need to rekindle their jump shots. Rondo knows that all eyes are on him, which typically produces some of his finer efforts.
2. What else will you be focused on in Friday's game?
Payne: I really want to see Brandon Bass come through with a bounce-back game. He posted nearly identical underwhelming numbers in Games 1 and 2 (8 points, 5 rebounds in Game 1; 8 points, 6 rebounds in Game 2), and he didn't garner his usual number of field goal attempts (just seven shots in both games). He hit consecutive jump shots in the second half of Game 2, which is about the only sign that points to him being able to get that jumper of his to start falling with more regularity. Having Rondo back should help, as he'll be the benefactor of many pick-and-pop plays tonight. Bass, though, is so far one of the key players who hasn't contributed quite as much as we're accustomed to, so a strong game tonight should help to put him back on his usual productive path.
Forsberg: The pregame hype will be on Ray Allen and whether his ankle allows him to suit up, but let's see how his Big Three brethren -- Pierce and Kevin Garnett -- bounce back after logging big minutes in Game 2. Sure, the Celtics had the luxury of consecutive days off, but both Pierce (44 minutes) and Garnett (40) left the tank on empty on Tuesday night. As Doc Rivers joked, the best player to golf with is the one who shot a 61 in his last round. Can Pierce produce another gem after going off for 36 points and 14 rebounds in Game 2? Can Garnett find more space to operate offensively? Beyond what Rondo accomplishes in his return, it may be how Pierce and Garnett fare that dictates how this one plays out for Boston.
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