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Rajon Rondo and the Celtics are hoping to get past the 76ers in Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center.PHILADELPHIA -- After splitting a pair of games at TD Garden, the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers essentially becomes a best-of-five battle starting Wednesday night as it shifts to Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m., TNT). To preview Game 3, we go 2-on-2 with colleague Greg Payne.
1. What was the most disappointing aspect of Boston's Game 2 loss?
Payne: The lack of late-game execution. It's become a hallmark of this team over the last five seasons, so it's always a bit of a disappointment when plays that could tie or win the game go awry for Doc Rivers and his club. Obviously no team is going to come through with a 100 percent success rate every time it's battling in a close game, but these C's seem to come through more often than not, compared to other teams.
Forsberg: Here's what is a little bit crazy: The Celtics played some terrible, terrible basketball over the first three quarters of Game 2 -- film of the middle quarters should be destroyed and never spoken of again -- yet it's the fourth quarter -- which actually featured some of the team's best ball -- that's so hard to ignore because of the late-game miscues. The idea that a visiting team hit its last five field goals (even if a couple of them were ridiculous circus shots) and made its final six free throws, all over the final four minutes, is almost unbelievable. Boston's only stop in that span was a 24-second violation. Now, give the 76ers a lot of the credit, but Boston's typical late-game defense completely disappeared and their offense was a mess. With that, the Celtics fumbled away both home-court advantage and any mental edge they had in terms of being the more clutch team after Game 1's flawless end-of-game execution. That's tough to swallow for a team that had a real chance to put a stranglehold on this series.
2. What will you be focused on in Game 3?
Payne: The team's offense. Scoring a combined 24 points in the middle two quarters will not garner many victories in the postseason. While Philly is a very, very good defensive team, the Celtics still inhibited their own success by relying too much on outside jumpers. Rajon Rondo has to take charge and attack the rim on a consistent basis and look to score a bit more in general, given how hobbled Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are right now.
Forsberg: Paul Pierce. Boston's offense almost has to have a better rhythm to it tonight and you get the feeling that Kevin Garnett will get plenty of touches, while Rajon Rondo should be looking for his own offense a bit more. But it's also clear that the Celtics need to find a way to get more out of Pierce. Rivers talked a lot in shootaround Wednesday about changing the way that Boston will get looks for the captain, using him in Allen-like situations off screens to try to give him space to shoot. That's a reflection of 1) Pierce's knee issue and 2) Andre Iguodala's smothering defense. If the Celtics can't find a way to give Pierce's offense a bump, then someone else on the team needs to step up. And, beyond Garnett's Game 1 performance, the team is still waiting for someone to do such.