Tag: Celtics 76ers

Boston Celtics guard Rondo drives to the basket past Philadelphia 76ers guard Turner during the first quarter of Game 5 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series in Boston

Boston vs. Philadelphia Game 7: First team to 80 wins?


Game 7.

It’s usually when even veterans get tight, playing like they are afraid to make a mistake. It means in Game 7 the offensive numbers plummet — but I don’t know that they can much more in Boston vs. Philadelphia.

This has been a series about which team could find enough offense against a good defense to pull out a win. Game 7 Saturday night will be no different. Philadelphia beat Boston in Game 6 with 82 points, and the first team to 80 likely wins this game.

There are no secrets left, no magical adjustments to make, this is just about execution. We all know what both sides are going to do.

For Boston, they have to get their points inside close to the basket. Boston’s jumpers are not falling consistently, so points in the paint matter. That will mean trying to establish Kevin Garnett on the block — and this is where the extra day off between games really helps Boston. KG should be fresher, he should get down the floor fast and establish deep, early position that the Sixers have not been able to stop this series. Philly will need to have a good game (without foul trouble) from Lavoy Allen to try and counter it.

But those points inside also need to come from Rajon Rondo penetration. He can get inside, but the key is for him to finish — he has shot 63 percent in the paint in Boston’s wins in this series, 46 percent in the losses (that stat via the wise John Schuhmann at NBA.com). Watch how well he is closing out his attacks.

For Philly, they are going to have Jrue Holiday attack the paint like he did in Game 6. And if Ray Allen and his bad ankle are covering Evan Turner, you will see Philly attack with Turner (and likely a lot of Lou Williams off the bench). Boston’s defense really misses Avery Bradley’s pressure and turnovers on the perimeter and in their Game 6 win Philly exploited that with some success. They will go back to that well.

Philly also needs some points in transition — get Andre Iguodala out finishing in transition. They have the better athletes — hello Thaddeus Young — but they have been largely bottled up by Boston’s defense this series. If Philly can get some easy buckets in transition or on offensive rebounds it will be difficult for Boston to match.

You think that at home with veterans like Paul Pierce who have been on bigger stages than this the Celtics will step up. This is the kind of game the Celtics historically win.

But it really just comes down to who gets their points in the paint. And probably the first one to 80.

Sixers edge Celtics with (surprise!) balanced offense

Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday

The Philadelphia 76ers’ 92-83 Game 4 win over the Boston Celtics may be remembered for many things: altogether brutal offensive play, defensive flurries, or even a pair of huge Andre Iguodala makes in the closing minutes of a game where points were precious.

Or, more realistically, this is exactly the kind of game that might be swept under the playoff rug altogether. Our basketball memories don’t exactly cling to these 48-minute slogs, and though this was a crucial win for a Sixers team fighting for the possibility of a potential upset, it was ultimately the kind of contest that holds more weight in narrative worth than it does in strategic or aesthetic relevance.

And if this game really is destined to be forgotten in the playoff mass, I only ask that a few important footnotes be worked into the total playoff tales of these two battle-hardened clubs. Friday night brought no revelation or reinvention, but if we cast a light on certain spots, it did offer bits of valuable affirmation.

  • The Sixers, scoring in balance: As mentioned above, Iguodala (16 points) was able to dole out the killing blows, but his late-game success provided a stark counter to his early ineffectiveness. The same could be said of Evan Turner (16 points), who was slow to start but ultimately instrumental. Or Lou Williams (15 points), who orchestrated the offense to startling effectiveness in the second half. Throw in Thaddeus Young (12 points), who functioned as the Sixers’ most productive big, and Jrue Holiday (11 points), and Philadelphia managed five double-digit scorers in a game where points were fairly rare. There was no anchor for the Sixers, save their defensive system; Iguodala may get to play the hero after laughing last, but it was the collective and persistent work of his team’s offense that finally pulled this game out. Philly’s offense may not be the most secure out there, but they managed to knock down the vaunted Boston D in the second half — a feat which shouldn’t be taken lightly.
  • The Boston Celtics are — even at their best — utterly inconsistent: The Sixers are by no means some monument to basketball stability, but their prospects also aren’t considered as seriously as Boston’s are. As such, Philly is allowed its flaws, while Boston must answer for its own. Due to prestige and familiarity, the Celtics are still regarded as something resembling an elite team; they hold the same core and the same Celtic green, and as such we’re apparently supposed to pretend that they still have a notable chance at this year’s title. It’s simply not so, and this is one area in which Boston’s regular season performance is particularly telling. These Celtics are simply too erratic to take a series against a more proficient opponent; it’s one thing to take down the Atlanta Hawks or even these Sixers, but the prospect of toppling the Heat or Pacers is incredibly slim, and the chances of beating the Spurs or Thunder even more so given Boston’s volatility.
  • Kevin Garnett’s carriage reverts to a pumpkin: KG had been among the finest performers of the postseason, and his offensive progression gave Boston’s offense a surprising buoyancy. With Garnett operating so consistently and efficiently from the block, the chronically injured Celtics were finally able to bank on the slightest offensive foundation, and build leads with something other than the strength of their ever-impressive defense. Not only did that defense break down a bit in Game 4, but so too did Garnett. KG finished the evening with nearly as many turnovers (seven) as points (nine), as the defense he anchors also ceded a ridiculous advantage to the creatively limited 76ers offense. Garnett’s hardly done yet, and if nothing else, we should expect the Celtics’ defense to bounce back in both spirit and scheme for Game 5 on their home floor. But it remains to be seen if he can hold up with such a substantial offensive workload going forward; Boston already relies on Garnett to maintain so much of their defense, and considering his wear and age, it wouldn’t be particularly surprising to see the Celtics’ star fade ever so slightly. As much of a unique joy as it’s been to see Garnett turn back the clock, these futile fights against time itself can only last so long.

Sixers try to adjust to little problem of Celtics smallball in Game 2

Paul Pierce, Andre Iguodala, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young

It was a bit surprising in historical context — this is the Boston Celtics, the franchise of Bill Russell, the team who one a 2008 title thanks to their big front line — but it worked, and that’s all Doc Rivers cares about.

In Game 1, Rivers went small in the fourth quarter with Kevin Garnett at center, Paul Pierce at the four with series of different wings and guards, the Celtics outscored the Sixers by five to win 92-91.

Half of what worked with that lineup was the defense. Philly struggled to get good looks and knock down shots — and were forced to shoot a lot from the midrange and ended up shooting 38 percent in the fourth quarter. Boston’s defense is hard enough to score on, but the Sixers played right into their hands.

The other half was at the other end, Boston ran a lot of Kevin Garnett/Rajon Rondo pick-and-roll and spaced the floor with shooters. Philly could not adjust. They need to for Game 2 (more and better Thaddeus Young please).

Both teams come into Game 2 with some reasons for optimism.

For Boston, they really didn’t play that well, especially for the first 35 minutes of Game 1. Pierce shot just 3-11 with Andre Iguodala on him for long stretches, Rajon Rondo was just 6-15. Ray Allen was 2-7 from three, the rest of the team was 0-11 from deep. These shots can fall. There should be credit given to the Sixers here, they had to give up something and they did — Kevin Garnett or other Celtics bigs and the 18 footer. Thing is, KG can knock that down pretty consistently.

Boston just needs to get a little more offense from guys like Mickael Pietrus and Brandon Bass. And they need to rebound better, second chance points were big for the 76ers in Game 1.

For Philly, they could have won Game 1 on the road, they led most of the way, which should show to them they can hang in this series. There were stretches and lineups where the Sixers were able to get out and run and get some easy transition buckets on the Celtics. They need do more of that.

They need to bounce back mentally and not just expect the Celtics to outplay them at the end. Also, they need more out of Elton Brand.

If Boston can win and go up 0-2 it’s hard to see Philly coming back to win four out of the next five. But if Philly can make a couple more plays and even the series, then it is on.

NBA Playoffs Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Kevin Garnett


Boston: 39-27 (No. 5 seed)
Philadelphia: 35-31 (8 seed)


Philadelphia took it 2-1, with the home team winning easily in each game.

Celtics: Paul Pierce has a sprained knee that will not be right until this summer, Ray Allen is battling through ankle pain that may need surgery, and Avery Bradley has a bum shoulder. They will all play but the Sixers are banged up.

Sixers: Nothing that will cause players to miss a game.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Celtics: Off. 101.0 (27th in NBA); Def. 98.2 (1st in NBA)
Sixers: Off. 103.9 (20th in NBA); Def. 99.2 (3rd in NBA)


Paul Pierce: He was at the best we have seen him in a while during the first round, averaging 21.2 points and 6.3 rebounds a game while Ray Allen was slowed with an ankle injury. The Celtics are going to need the same out of him in this round — but he’s going to have to do it with Andre Iguodala draped all over him. That’s a much tougher task.

Rajon Rondo: He also was dynamic in the first round and picked up his shooting pace, averaging 16.8 points and 11.8 assists per game. He has a matchup he can exploit with Jrue Holiday but he also may be called upon to play some defense on Lou Williams, the Sixers potent bench scorer.

Kevin Garnett: Boston is better when he is playing the five spot, and he stepped up and scored 28 points in Game 6 to help close out the Hawks. They are going to need offense from him in this series, and they are going to need him to play good defense on Spencer Hawes — laugh if you want Celtics fans but Hawes ability to step out and hit shots and his ball movement is key to making the Sixers halfcourt offense work.

Note to Philadelphia ownership — don’t insult him through the media. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.


Andre Iguodala: In a series where points will be hard to come by the Sixers need him to excel at both ends of the floor. He needs to slow down Paul Pierce on defense, then get some transition and opportunistic points on offense. And maybe getting a few jump shots to fall as well. He is the guy who has to step up big if the Sixers are going to win this series.

Lou Williams: He comes off the bench but he is the one Sixer who can just light up the scoreboard, and he is the guy with the ball in his hands on crucial plays at the end of games. He averaged 12.8 points per game in the first round, but his three point shooting was off, he needs to knock down the looks he gets in this series.

Spencer Hawes: People are just starting to realize how key he is for Philly. He averaged 15.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in the final four games of the Bulls series, but he didn’t have to do that against Joakim Noah… or now Kevin Garnett. If KG shuts him down the 76ers halfcourt offense stagnates — he is the guy that gets the ball moving side to side and gets them open looks. Philly needs him to be on.


Bet the under. Look at the statistical ranking above — two top-three defenses and two bottom-10 offenses. These are going to be low scoring, ugly affairs.

What it really comes down to — whichever team can get some consistent offensive spark is going to win. One way to do that is creating turnovers with their defense — something Boston was much better at during the season. Boston forced the other team to turn the ball over on 14.9 percent of their possessions (4th best in NBA), the Sixers on just 13.5 percent (19th). The problem for Boston is Philly was the best team in the NBA at taking care of the ball last season (10.9 percent of possessions ended in a turnover). If either side coughs the ball up and those become easy transition points the other way, it is a huge advantage.

It just seems to me Boston has more consistent weapons when it comes to getting those points — Rondo, Garnett, Pierce can all step up on a given night with a huge game. And Ray Allen is still lurking out there and could catch fire. Philly has Iguodala and Williams, and Jrue Holiday has had good games (and needs to have a monster series if Philly is to win) but it’s just not as many weapons.

The games will be low scoring and close, it will be the little things that decide it in the end. Like having home court advantage so your role players may give you a boost in more games. Or just having savvy veterans who have been through the wars and seem to make plays at key times. All things Boston has.


Celtics in 7 games.

NBA Playoff Preview: Boston vs. New York

Celtics' Pierce drives into defense of Knicks' Anthony during the first half of their NBA basketball game in New York

Celtics: 56-26 (No. 3 seed)
Knicks: 42-40 (No. 6 seed)

Celtics sweep 4-0, but know that two games were in December and one was a meaningless game played largely by substitutes on the last night of the season. So, three of the four have no real bearing on the playoff games about to start.

Celtics: Shaquille O’Neal, expected to play and start but has played 6 minutes since Feb. 1 due to Achilles and a calf strain; Delonte West missed time with sprained ankle but should be available.
Knicks: no significant injuries

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKING (points per 100 possession)
Celtics: Off. 104.4 (16th in NBA); Def. 97.7 (2nd in NBA)
Knicks: Off. 108.2 (7th in NBA); Def. 107.1 (22nd in NBA)


Rajon Rondo: He has just not been himself in recent weeks — Rondo has been shooting a little more, passing a little less and the result is a sticky Celtics offense. Part of that has been funky Celtics lineups as they rest their key players for the playoffs, but part of it is just Rondo being off. Expect him to get back to form — like the other Celtic veterans he knows what is required — but if he doesn’t there will be issues.

Shaquille O’Neal: This series is not where Shaq is really needed, it is the next one, and all the subsequent ones. But Shaq needs to use this series to get some conditioning and his flow back. The lineup of Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Shaq was the second best in basketball among five-man units that played more than 200 minutes. They will need that lineup to give them 20 minutes a night in the future, they need to get it back in a groove in this series.

Paul Pierce: The most entertaining matchup of this series is Garnett on Stoudemire, but that is not where the mismatch is. Pierce will have Carmelo Anthony on him and needs to exploit Anthony’s “defense” or at least make him work much harder on that end of the floor, taking away some energy from his offense. Pierce has been the one Celtic playing better than his season averages the last 10 games (21.4 points a game on 51.6 percent shooting and 42.5 percent from three). He could continue those kinds of numbers this series.


Carmelo Anthony: They are going to need him to provide a lot of offense — Amar’e Stoudemire will get some but Kevin Garnett does a good job traditionally of slowing him down. Lately Anthony has been providing plenty of scoring, averaging more than 30 points a game. The real challenge is that Anthony’s preferred mode of offense — isolation from the wing — plays right into the hands of the Celtics defense. He is going to have to get inside and draw some fouls, and he has to hit contested shots.

Ronny Turiaf: One thing the Knicks have not had this season is a consistent intimidating defensive and rebounding presence in the paint. Turiaf, who has battled through injuries (as he seems to every year) is the best option they have for that. And he is their best chance against Shaq. What we do know is that Turiaf will bring some serious heart and energy to the table.

Chauncey Billups: If there is one Knick who could steal a game, who could get hot and make some plays, it is Billups. He has to keep Rondo in his offensive funk, make Rondo really work on defense and find a way to get his teammates some easy buckets against the Celtics defense. The Knicks need to run some, not let the Celtics get set, and that is where Billups comes in.


This is the series where a lot of people see a potential upset. And the Knicks have a couple guys capable of just taking over and dominating a game and stealing one almost singlehandedly. But even with its recent struggles the Celtics defense is still formidable and what the Knicks do — pick-and-rolls, Anthony in isolation — plays to the strengths of that Celtics defense. The Knicks are going to have to play better defense than they have most of the season, because if Rondo starts dishing and Ray Allen starts hitting the Knicks are going to struggle to keep up.



These are going to be some entertaining games, with the full force of two cities that can’t stand each other behind them. But in the end, in the final minutes, it will be the Celtics execution that outdoes the Knicks individual players.

Celtics in 6.