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Celtics Aim For 2-1 Series Lead in Game 3

Friday, May 7, 2010
Venue: TD Garden

Am I glad the Celtics just had three days off? Well, yes and no. Of course I wanted Kevin Garnett to rest that foot, and of course I wanted Kendrick Perkins to rest that knee. But at the same time, I didn't want LeBron James resting that elbow (not that I think he needs it, because, you know, I don't actually think anything's wrong with it. But I digress). And then of course, there's the simple fact that we're all fans and want to see these guys play. Three days off in the midst of what could go down as one of the more dramatic/entertaining/important/gut-wrenching/edge-of-your-seat/nerve-wracking playoff series in recent memory? At a certain point, we start to get impatient. I mean, we've got business to take care of. We're in the midst of "Operation Don't Let the King Get the Ring".

Alas, patience is a virtue, and tonight, the series shifts back to Boston, where the Celtics will have a chance to grab a much needed 2-1 series lead over LeBron and co. So far, the series has been defined by the ongoing discussion of a certain joint on LeBron's right well as the play of Rajon Rondo. Let's stick with Rondo. He's coming off a 19-assist game, with came on the heels of a 27-point, 12-assist outing in Game 1. As much as people want to say the Celtics can't stop LeBron James, the Cavaliers can't stop Rajon Rondo. Sure, the Cavs will publicly make a point of emphasis about trying to do it, but Rondo's proven he can dribble circles around anyone attempting to defend him (Yes, Mo Williams and Anthony Parker, I'm talking to you).

This might be a good time to mention that, historically, when a series has been tied 1-1, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series 76 percent of the time.

Anyway, here's my main concern for tonight's game: It's the first game in Boston and the series is tied. LeBron has had three days off. We all know that he's got "one of those games" floating around inside of him. He's more than likely due for some freak-of-nature 40 or 50-point outing. Being someone who craves attention, wouldn't tonight's game be ideal for such a performance?

But on the other hand, and Jeff Clark alluded to this the other day, Paul Pierce has yet to fully assert himself offensively through the first two games, with the majority of his offense coming along the perimeter. We're still waiting for that game where he decides to stick his head down and get himself to the free throw line. And speaking of fouls and free throws, here's a quick breakdown of Games 1 and 2:

Game 1:

BOS: 25 PF 21 FTA

CLE: 17 PF 31 FTA

Game 2:

BOS: 31 PF 18 FTA

CLE: 16 PF 38 FTA

LEBRON: 15 FTA (Oh no! It's Michael (You kiss your mother with that mouth?) Jordan!)

Credit Doc Rivers for not publicly lashing out at the referees (although, if he did, David Stern would swoop in and take his money), but even without Doc, word has spread of the foul discrepancy. But I guess with this series featuring guys like Mike Brown - who still doesn't think Shaquille O'Neal fouled Rondo on that vicious hit in Game 1 that sent Rondo sprawling to the floor - what can you expect?

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Cavaliers: Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O'Neal

Keys to the Game:

Slow LeBron's Supporting Cast Down: Every Cavalier not named LeBron James has been less than ideal so far throughout this affair, so the C's are most likely better off banking on them continuing to miss shots than LeBron taking another night off. Mo Williams, despite that parade of shots he buried during the third quarter of Game 1, has yet to hit a three-pointer in this series, and is coming off a 4-point, 1-9 shooting effort.

Rasheed "I Play When I Want To" Wallace: His blistering 17-point performance in Game 2 left me wanting more, since his impact on the game was so profound. However, if you didn't know Doc Rivers was talking about Rasheed Wallace, you'd think he was talking about some rookie with tremendous upside when he routinely mentions things like consistency and putting together back-to-back games. Not exactly stuff you want to hear about a veteran as schooled as Rasheed. Here's hoping he decides to show up tonight to help his team win.

Too Many Turnovers: 18 giveaways in Game 2? After 16 in Game 1? Yeah, that needs to stop. The Celtics are playing with fire every time they start repeatedly turning the ball over. With LeBron on the other team, the fewer opportunities he has to touch the ball, the better off the C's will be.

RONDOOOOO...And Ray: Ray's averaged a respectable 18 points per game through the first two games, largely due to his point guard getting him the ball. Of the 36 points Ray has scored in this series, 21 of them have come off of assists from Rajon Rondo, which measures out to 58.3 percent. Boston's starting backcourt has a good thing going, and Ray's offense helps keep Cleveland's defense honest.

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