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All eyes are on Rajon Rondo and the Celtics heading into Friday's Game 4 in Philadelphia.The Boston Celtics can put a stranglehold on an Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena (8 p.m., ESPN). On the heels of a dominant Game 3 triumph here Wednesday, the Celtics own a 2-1 lead and are looking for more before the series shifts back to Boston. To preview tonight's Game 4 matchup, we play a game of 2-on-2 with CelticsHub's Brian Robb.
1. Predict the unpredictable: Can the C's carry their momentum from Game 3 over to Game 4 and take a commanding 3-1 lead?
Robb: I like their chances of maintaining the momentum. This team hasn't made it easy on themselves all season, but after Game 3 you have to think the C's smell blood. They know a 3-1 series lead all but puts away Philadelphia for good. Plus, with Miami having their hands full with Indiana on the other side of the bracket, a quick wrap to the series could bring several days off, which is plenty of motivation for the ailing members of the roster. Besides the added rest incentive, I just think the C's worst basketball of the series is behind them. They won't replicate their nearly perfect Game 3 effort, but Kevin Garnett can't be stopped, Mickael Pietrus has rediscovered his shot, and the C's have made defensive adjustments that will be tough for the Sixers to counter heading into Game 4.
Forsberg: We hear so much about the importance of peaking at the right time in sports. Well, I don't know if it's possible for the Celtics to peak considering the lingering injuries they're battling, but I wonder if -- apologies for an awkward sounding phrase -- they can consistent at the right time. All season we've been seemingly waiting for this team to build off quality performances. And yet they always seem to let off the accelerator a little bit, making things just a bit more difficult on themselves. Friday's Game 4 is a chance to all but lock up this series, build off the boundless confidence that seems to exist after Game 3. Heck, with another effort like Wednesday night, the Celtics could consider printing up some Pacer-like T-shirts with Green Swagger on it for later in the playoffs. You get the feeling this team is locked in and focused, but they gotta show it. It'll also be interesting to see how Philadelphia responds to this adversity; they've rebounded from each previous playoff loss with a win, but can they keep up the trend in Game 4?
2. What else will you have your eye on in Game 4?
Robb: Perimeter defense and rebounding. Plenty of things went right for Boston in Game 3, but these two factors were at the top of the list, and are forever interconnected with this team. In Game 2, the C's had numerous lapses against the Sixers' speedy guards on the perimeter, allowing penetration which forced Boston's bigs to rotate off their men to challenge shots. These rotations hurt the C's rebounding and provided Philadelphia with numerous second-chance opportunities, especially late in the game that provided costly. Boston made adjustments on D and denied these drives in Game 3, however, and wouldn't you know it, they dominated the boards as well. It's a telltale sign for this team in the postseason. They are 6-0 when they win the rebounding battle, 0-3 when they lose it. If the C's stay disciplined in these areas for Game 4, they'll be in good shape.
Forsberg: Lost ever-so slightly in the brilliance of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce throwback efforts the other night was how important Rajon Rondo was in sparking the offense early. Let's remember the Sixers opened that game by scoring 33 first-quarter points and shot 61.8 percent from the field. The fact that Boston was only down 5 at the break was remarkable. Like Games 1 and 2, when they dug themselves double-digit holes in each game, Boston could have been staring at a larger deficit, but Rondo's attack-the-basket (and finish instead of kicking out for perimeter looks) prevented things from slipping away. Rondo had 13 points before his first assist of the game. He doesn't necessarily have to do that in Game 4, but he's gotta take advantage of available layups when they are there, especially as Boston settles in at both ends of the court.