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.