Monday, May 21, 2012
2-on-2: Celtics vs. 76ers (Game 5)
By Chris Forsberg
Elsa/Getty ImagesFresh off an entire weekend to ponder kicking away an 18-point second-half lead, the Boston Celtics return to the court Monday night for Game 5 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden (7 p.m., TNT). To preview the matchup, we play a game of 2-on-2 with CelticsHub's Brian Robb:
Kevin Garnett and Elton Brand renew acquaintances in Game 4 on Monday night at TD Garden.
1. What's the biggest thing Boston has to clean up from Game 4?
Robb: There is a laundry list of things to choose from for Boston, but I'll say the biggest thing to clean up has to be the turnovers. Coughing up possessions have been a source of frustration for this squad for nearly the past five years now, but it's an area Boston had largely improved on during this postseason run. That is until they turned the ball over 17 times in a Game 4 loss. The C's roster struggles enough as it is on the offensive end without the added miscues, given their lack of second-chance opportunities, so the last thing the Celtics need is to make their margin of error even thinner on that end of the floor. They need to value the ball more and avoid the home run passes.
Forsberg: There truly is no shortage of areas to pick from after a dismal second half in which coach Doc Rivers suggested his team "completely lost our discipline." I keep going back to the defense. Boston's calling card has been the ability to tighten up late in the game and get key stops. In the Celtics' two losses this series, the 76ers have made big shots with blatant disregard for Boston's halfcourt defense. Sure, the Celtics haven't aided their own cause by allowing second-chance opportunities, and give the 76ers credit for making those crunch-time buckets. But Boston needs to get back to what the foundation of this team is built around: defense, particularly in clutch situations. As Rivers pointed out, the team's offense -- particularly its ability to run -- is predicated on getting stops. It's not happenstance that while Philadelphia struggled to hit much of anything over the first three quarters, the Celtics were able to run and build an 18-point lead.
2. What else will you be focused on in Game 5?
Robb: The lineup choices. Rivers and his staff had their first major hiccup of the postseason by riding their small lineup into the group against a larger Philadelphia front line featuring Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young in the fourth quarter of Game 4. The fact Rivers admitted as much in practice on Sunday has to be encouraging, but now that the Sixers have seemingly found the best counter to Boston's smaller lineup in the Allen/Young duo, the question now is what adjustment will Rivers make with his troops. Does Brandon Bass start to see the floor in the fourth quarter now? And if so, who sits in crunch time for Boston, Avery Bradley or Ray Allen? There will be lots of decisions to be made with no easy answers, as the stakes increase for Game 5.
Forsberg: It really is an intriguing little chess match developing between Doug Collins and Rivers in regards to small lineups. For the first three games of the series, the Celtics went small to counter when the 76ers did the same, often operating with four guards (some combination of Rajon Rondo, Bradley, Paul Pierce, Allen, and Mickael Pietrus) along with one big (Kevin Garnett or Ryan Hollins). With the 76ers utilizing Young at the 4, the Celtics would pull Bass off the floor and hope that a smaller guard could neutralize Young's versatility. Over the first three games, that strategy worked. But it crumbled in Game 4, the 76ers making their runs against Boston's small unit and exploits the lack of size in the paint (particularly with the combination of Young and Allen). Will the Celtics flirt with staying big when the 76ers go small on Monday? Was Game 4 the outlier? Rivers admits it's going to be a decision made on the fly and it will likely determine how Game 5 -- and maybe this entire series -- plays out.