Philadelphia Boston

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

11 Comments

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.

Brandon Bass? Yes, Brandon Bass leads Celtics to win, 3-2 series lead

21 Comments

In Game 3, Doc Rivers went with a lot of small ball and not enough Brandon Bass, and after the loss said he regretted it.

Well, that worked out well.

Brandon Bass scored 18 of his 27 points in the third quarter — Bass alone outscore the Sixers 18-16 in the third — and that sparked a 101-85 win that gives the Celtics a 3-2 series lead.

“I think it all started for us on the defensive end,” Bass said after the game. “We were able to pick up our defensive intensity and it led to good offense.”

Boston did pick up its intensity in the second half, and now the question that faces the young Sixers is the same one from after Game 3 — can Philly find another gear to match what Boston has brought? They did last time, and a series where momentum has been fickle and fleeting nothing would really surprise.

Boston and Philly played a basically even first half (50-47 Sixers at the half) but that intensity really showed in the third quarter — that’s when it felt like Game 3 and Philly was overwhelmed. Boston pressured hard off the pick-and-roll (it was an aggressive show by Boston’s bigs who then recovered well), they cut off any lane to the hoop and blew up the Sixers go-to play. The result was a scrambling Philly team rushed into bad shots as the shot clock winds down and had six third-quarter turnovers.

Philly shot 32 percent in the fourth quarter as the Celtics defense kept the pressure on. They couldn’t mount a comeback. On the night both Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala were 3-10, and Evan Turner was 5-13.

Philly has to get better shots against that pressure — or get turnovers and transition points of their own — if they plan to force a deicing Game 7.

On the other end, Brandon Bass was just playing smart. He made cuts to open spaces and rolled to the hoop when the defense collapsed on a cutting Rajon Rondo. He attacked and got to the line 10 times. When he got looks at the rim it open up space for him when he caught the ball 16 feet out, and he knocked down the midrange, too.

Rondo played well — 13 points, 14 assists — but this was not Boston’s best offensive game. Kevin Garnett had a big first half and finished with 20. Paul Pierce was the focus of the Sixers defense but had 16.

In Game 6 Boston isn’t going to change who they are or what they do. Philly knows what they are going to get.

We’ll see if they can match it.

Video: Andre Iguodala buries Celtics at end of game

7 Comments

For years, Philly fans have been asking Andre Iguodala to step up. Well, here you go.

Down the stretch he knocked down a beautiful stepback jumper and then a dagger three to secure the Sixers Game 4 win, tying the series up at 2-2. Both are strong, confident plays from a guy who can step up and play like one of the game’s true elites, and did when it mattered Friday night.

Sixers’ season rests on matching energy, defense of Celtics

6 Comments

Boston’s veterans came out playing in another gear in Game 3, leaving the Sixers standing by the side of the road looking confused.

Rajon Rondo got wherever he wanted on the court and was aggressive doing so on his way to 23 points and 14 assists. Kevin Garnett looked young and quick while Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes looked neither, and Garnett had 27 points. Boston blew the Sixers’ doors off and lead the series 2-1. A Boston win Friday and this series all but wrapped up.

Game 4 is all about how the young Sixers respond. Can they find that next level of energy? Can they return to a defensive focus that contains Rondo and disrupts the Celtics offensive sets? Can they take the next step of team evolution?

The Sixers talked a lot about defense on their off-day. Coach Doug Collins pulled no punches talking to CSNPhilly.com.

“We have to do a better job when Kevin Garnett is off the floor,” Collins said. “We can’t let them go to their bench and build a lead. We never got Rondo stopped all night long. He took the ball wherever he wanted to take it on the floor. We have to take the challenge that he is the guy that is going to push on the break, get the ball up the floor. He’s going to make the passes and initiating most of the stuff, so we need to take the challenge of doing a better job on him.”

The Sixers also need to get some easy buckets in transition and bump the tempo of the game up — which is hard when Rondo has 27 assists and two turnovers in the last two games. Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday need to take on more offense. They must do more.

Expect this game to be closer than Game 3, although Rondo and Garnett are the guys to watch, if they are getting a lot of points Philly is in trouble.

The all the Sixers have to do is out execute the Celtics at the end of a game — which they have done this series but will need to replicate if they plan to even things up.

Celtics find Fountain of Youth (or offense), rout 76ers in Game 3

51 Comments

For the first couple of games, Boston looked old and injured, with Philly’s aggressive defense forcing improvisation and a lot of missed shots.

In Game 3, Boston got their groove back. From 2008.

Boston attacked the paint early with post ups, Kevin Garnett could not miss a turnaround jumper on his way to 27 points (on just 17 shots) and Boston blew the game open in the second and third quarters in its way to an easy 107-91 win. Boston now leads the series 2-1.

Boston came out with a new aggressiveness and level of energy at both ends for this game. As veteran teams can do. Philly, a young team learning to play at this level, seemed taken aback by the new level of intensity. That is their task if they want to keep pushing Boston — the Sixers have to match that level, and they have to play better on the defensive end again. Boston shot 51.9 percent on the night and 45.5 percent from three and they will win every time if that happens.

This game was different from the opening tip, with both teams flowing better on offense. But after a couple games where Boston spent more time in the Rajon Rondo-led improvisational Celtics offense that Doc Rivers calls “random,” Boston got into their sets and into the paint early and often in Game 3.

“We (established ourselves in the post) the right way, I thought we did it through execution,” Rivers said after the game on an interview broadcast on NBA TV. “We did it through space. I thought in the first two games we tried to do it, but we did it out of random, and our spacing was poor. (Tonight) we also did it through posting the ball early, we posted Paul (Pierce 24 points on 17 shots) up early and we posted Kevin up early. And that’s the right way to play. That’s who we are. Now the shots have to go in, that makes you better. But at least the shots were the shots we wanted rather than the ones, because our offense was so poor, that we had to take. I thought that was the big difference.”

Pierce really set the tone at the end of the first quarter when the guy dragging around a leg with a sprained knee for a couple games drove and threw down two dunks, one over Thaddeus Young.

But Philly still had the lead 33-28 after one quarter as they matched Boston shot for shot. In the second the Celtics got back to playing their kind of defense — the Sixers had just 16 points in the second quarter. Boston had 32. It was an 11 point lead for Boston at the half (KG and Pierce each had 17 points already) and Philly scored just 17 in the third quarter as the game became a laugher.

This game was the best energy and aggressiveness Boston had played with this series. Philly, a young team learning to play at this level, seemed taken aback by the new level of intensity.

Rondo was impressive all night and had 23 points and 13 assists. Mikhail Pietrus knocked down some threes and had 13 off the bench. Philly’s stars struggled with Andre Iguodala taking just six shots while the previously hot Evan Turner was 1-10. The bright spot was Young coming off the bench for 22.

The two questions for Game 4 is can Boston keep this up — the energy level yes but the shooting likely cools off some — and can the Sixers raise their game to match? Game 4 is not likely to be a blowout like this gain, but it’s not going to return all the way to grind-it-out Game 2 either. The Sixers are going to have to adapt