AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Can Rajon Rondo and the Celtics get past the 76ers again in Game 2?The Boston Celtics will carry a 1-0 series lead over the Philadelphia 76ers into Monday night's Game 2 of an Eastern Conference semifinal matchup at TD Garden (7 p.m., TNT). To preview the battle, we play a game of 2-on-2 with colleague Greg Payne:
1. The Celtics won Game 1, but what do they need to tighten up?
Payne: The Celtics can still be far more effective from 3-point nation. Only twice during this postseason has Boston shot over 40 percent from distance, and they didn't exactly get off to a hot start from beyond the arc in Game 1 against the 76ers, connecting on a mere 2 of 18 (11.1 percent). The Celtics were fortunate that some very impressive defensive plays helped them escape with a win on Saturday, but if Monday's game is just as close, a timely triple could go a long way towards tilting the game, and control of the series, in Boston's favor.
Forsberg: How about some early intensity? The way Boston sleepwalked through the first 37 minutes of Game 1, they didn't exactly deserve to escape with a win. Oh sure, this team loves making things as difficult as possible on itself, but at some point in this postseason journey -- if Boston expects to make it a long trek -- the Celtics need to find a way to make it less of a grind. And there's an opportunity for that tonight with Game 2 in Boston. If the Celtics can come out and play the way they did the final 11 minutes on Saturday over the first 11 minutes tonight, they can put themselves in position to secure a 2-0 lead and put all the pressure on the 76ers as the series shifts to Philadelphia.
2. What else will you be focused on in Game 2?
Payne: Mickael Pietrus' offensive production. While his defense has proven to be a valuable commodity for Boston, the C's could still use a few more buckets from MP. He's averaging just over a point per game in the postseason and is shooting a mere 13 percent from beyond the arc -- two figures he's clearly capable of improving on. I mentioned the need for the Celtics to improve their 3-point game, and Pietrus is an ideal candidate to help in that department.
Forsberg: I'll be keeping a close eye on Brandon Bass. His minutes were down to begin with, and Boston even leaned on a small late-game lineup that had Ray Allen in his place with the starters. Bass finished with a serviceable 10 points and 4 rebounds over 24 minutes, but we're still waiting for a sort of breakout game. What's more, Bass was a team worst minus-13 in Game 1, no one else was worse than minus-5 (Greg Stiemsma). The Celtics need more from Bass, particularly to defray some of the scoring load from Kevin Garnett.