Mark L. Baer/US Presswire
Kevin Garnett swarms Lavoy Allen last season at TD Garden.The Boston Celtics (2-2, 1-1 home) and Philadelphia 76ers (2-2, 1-1 away) meet in an Atlantic Division battle on Friday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* RIVALRY RESUMED: These two teams engaged in a highly entertaining seven-game battle in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season. While both sides haven seen a bit of a roster overhaul, there's potential for this rivalry to blossom again, particularly if these two teams emerge as division front-runners (though the Knicks are hoping to be in the mix, having accounted for both of Philadelphia's losses). Paul Pierce will be happy to not see Andre Iguodala on the other side, but even as the 76ers wait for Andrew Bynum (knee) to get healthy, there's more than enough talent here to push a Boston squad that is searching for continuity and chemistry at the start of the new season.
* LOOKING FOR A BREAKOUT: Shooting guard Courtney Lee tweeted Thursday that he spent two hours after Boston's off-day workout getting up shots hoping to free himself from an early season shooting slump. Lee has been mighty quiet offensively over the last three games, missing a number of open looks while trying to get comfortable as a starter in Boston's offense. Likewise, Jeff Green is still trying to carry his preseason success into the regular season. Expect the Celtics to look for ways to get both players going and rebuild their confidence. Would coach Doc Rivers move Green into a smaller starting lineup one of the next two nights to see how he responds to playing alongside Boston's veteran core at the start of games?
* VALUE THE BALL: Philadelphia ranks among the league leaders in forcing 17 turnovers per game. Last time out, the Sixers forced more turnovers (24) than they allowed field goals (23) in a 77-62 victory over injury-depleted New Orleans. Boston has a propensity to be careless with the ball and won't survive turnovers against the 76ers.
* MINDING THE MID-RANGE GAME: Even without Bynum, the 76ers have done a phenomenal job in limiting their foes' ability to score close to the basket. Philadelphia opponents are shooting a mere 18.4 percent from 5-to-14 feet so far this season, and the 76ers have had success defending both the rim and 3-pointers. It's up to Boston to exploit the mid-range game in order to put points on the board (and let's face it, Boston's offense tends to live and die on those mid-range shots). The 76ers are allowing a mere 86.8 points per game this season.