- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Celtics will look to put pressure on Andre Iguodala and the 76ers.Fresh off dispatching the Atlanta Hawks in six games, the Boston Celtics turn their attention to the Philadelphia 76ers, who upset the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. To preview the first game of this conference semifinal series, we play a game of 2-on-2 with colleague Greg Payne.
1. What's one thing Boston has to do to win this series?
Payne: Limit turnovers. The 76ers are a very good defensive team, and, perhaps even worse for the Celtics, they're a very athletic team, capable of breaking out in transition and scoring easy baskets. The Celtics won't be able to completely limit Philadelphia's fast-break opportunities, but they can do themselves an enormous favor by not routinely spoon-feeding Philly extra chances at wreaking havoc in the open court. Because Philly is so good defensively, Boston can't afford to waste any possessions, so valuing the ball should be one of Boston's primary objectives in this series.
Forsberg: This is one of those series where Doc Rivers likes to joke (or half-joke) that if you're going to turn the ball over, make sure you throw the ball 15 rows deep in the crowd so that Boston can at least reset its defense instead of allowing easy points. That's priority Nos. 1, 2 and 3 this series. Beyond not giving the ball away, the Celtics have to generate good looks each time down the floor. With Paul Pierce and Ray Allen ailing, the offense is without maybe its two top options, which means Boston has to find other ways to generate points (and you can't expect 28 points from Kevin Garnett each night). Guys like Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus need to give more this series because points are going to be tough to come by in this defensive-minded battle.
2. What will you be focused on in Game 1?
Payne: I'll be watching how things unfold in the paint. Spencer Hawes had a very productive series against the Bulls (granted, Joakim Noah was hurt for the final few games), and Thaddeus Young, who didn't exactly prosper against Chicago, can also impact the game by crashing the glass. While the likes of Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams will garner most of the hype for Philly heading into the series, the Celtics cannot afford to sleep on Hawes and Young down low.
Forsberg: Let's face it, neither the Celtics nor the 76ers are exactly elite rebounding teams. As Rivers joked, someone's gotta grab 'em. The Celtics gave up an alarming amount of second-chance opportunities against Atlanta and, while the Hawks didn't always cash in, you can't be giving up multiple opportunities in defensive-minded series. But much like he took over in Game 6 of the Hawks series, it would be nice if Garnett continues to demand the ball. The Sixers' owners have probably duct-taped their mouths shut, but Garnett shouldn't need any motivation to try to impose his will on this series.
5dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
6dESPN Stats and Information Group