2-on-2: Celtics vs. 76ers (Game 1)
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.
Play Podcast Boston College RB Andre Williams gives his takes on being a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, the Eagles' surprising season, his health and more.
Play Podcast ESPN NBA analyst Bruce Bowen weighs in on Doc Rivers' return to Boston, how Kobe Bryant's comeback has impacted the Lakers and more.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Cris Carter covers the impact of Rob Gronkowski's injury, the Bears' win over the Cowboys, Alshon Jeffery's development, Chicago's QB situation and more.
Play Podcast Patriots CB Kyle Arrington talks about recovering the onside kick in the victory over the Browns, his team's comeback wins, New England's reaction to Rob Gronkowski's injury and more.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer dishes on the impact of Rob Gronkowski's injury, Tony Romo's style of play, Chip Kelly's coaching, Robert Griffin III's struggles and more.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck talks about the quality of officiating, Wes Welker's health, Rob Gronkowski's injury, the state of the Redskins and more.