2-on-2: Celtics vs. Hawks (Game 4)
1. How do you think the C's will respond after heavy activity for veteran legs in recent games? Will Ray Allen and Avery Bradley be on the floor?
Payne: The Celtics will certainly need a higher level of focus in tonight's game after so many important players played significant minutes in Game 3 on Friday. The way this series has gone so far, it wouldn't surprise me at all if this turned into another grind-it-out kind of game, but, having said that, with true control of this series on the line tonight, I can see Paul Pierce & Co. coming out with a renewed spirit and jumping on the Hawks early. We're not sure quite yet how Ray Allen's ankle responded on Saturday after he played 37 minutes on Friday, but I'm expecting both him and Avery Bradley to be in the lineup tonight, with Allen's minutes being a bit more limited.
Forsberg: This is one of those "step on their throat" situations where the Celtics can essentially lock up this series with a win tonight and they absolutely have to hope that's enough to carry them because it's hard to imagine this team being very fresh. Boston players tried to make the case that the Hawks have logged big minutes as well (and even if Josh Smith returns, he's going to be less than 100 percent), which is true, but we've seen the effect of tired legs with the Celtics before and it's not pretty. It sounds like Boston should have its full complement of bodies -- Bradley being the only game-time decision -- and that would aid its cause, even as coach Doc Rivers has loosened his rotation this round. Boston could really use a big-time effort from a bench guy like Mickael Pietrus to help defray the load. Overall, the team still hasn't played its best basketball yet and you wonder when that breakout game might occur.
2. What else will you be focused on in Game 4 at TD Garden?
Payne: I'll be focused on the Celtics' big men tonight, especially Kevin Garnett. Rajon Rondo's triple-double and Allen's return in Game 3 stole most of the headlines, but Garnett came through with a very effective 20-point, 13-rebound effort, on a much more efficient 9-for-18 shooting. Not having Smith around to help clog the lane certainly helped Garnett, and even if Smith returns tonight, Garnett should still be able to take advantage of him not being at full health. Given all that's on the line tonight in terms of the outcome of the series, I'm expecting to see an aggressive Garnett in the post, and an active Garnett on the glass (his customary defense always applies).
Forsberg: I'm going back to Pietrus here. If Bradley and Allen are less than full health (Bradley because of his dislocated left shoulder; Allen because of his ankle), this seems like a game in which Pietrus will have to play big minutes. Historically a solid postseason contributor, Pietrus has been a bit slow out of the gates with Boston. Yes, his defense has been excellent, but he endured a frustrating Game 2 in which he got in early foul trouble (three fouls in 34 seconds) and seemed to mentally check out for a bit (recovering late by again leaning on his defense). It'd be good to see him attack the basket a little more, try to get his offense going inside the 3-point stripe and let it snowball from there.
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