The Boston Celtics have been able to overcome several deficits throughout their first seven games of the postseason. While this can be a good thing at times when the Celtics are able to climb back into the game and eventually come out victorious, it is never a good thing to fall back on.
The Celtics cannot allow teams like the Philadelphia 76ers to hang around because they are young and if the Celtics leave the door open, the 76ers can gain confidence. There were too many turnovers and only Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were making shots for a large portion of the first half to keep the Celtics in the game. In fact, the Celtics went through the initial nine minutes of the game without a field goal from anybody other than Garnett.
The Celtics trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half at 45-32 before they went on a 10-2 run to head into the locker room down by merely 5 points. In the first few minutes of the third frame, the Celtics scored six consecutive points to take the lead for the first time in the game after Avery Bradley’s layup. The team fell asleep when Rajon Rondo tossed a lazy pass in the direction of Paul Pierce. The 76ers’ Evan Turner stole the ball and turned the careless play into transition points after Garnett was called for goaltending on an offensive rebound.
When the 4th quarter began, the Sixers scored the first six points to go ahead by double figures at 10 points. The majority of the team struggled shooting except for Garnett, who was 12-of-20 from the field. It was not until the 4th quarter that Rondo was taking care of the ball and knocking down open jumpers from the elbow. Rondo’s numbers (13 points, 17 assists, 12 rebounds) looked great at the end, but for the majority of the contest, he was inconsistent . He finished with 7 turnovers, including two overthrown lobs to Greg Stiemsma and Garnett.
The biggest keys in this series are limiting the turnovers and disposing the exuberant Sixers as quickly as possible. If the Celtics are able to get past the 76ers, they appear to be on a collision course with the Miami Heat. Even though the defending Eastern Conference champs are flawed, they have two superstars in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who were able to end the Celtics season last year. The Heat is much better than either the Atlanta Hawks or the 76ers. The Celtics will not have the advantage of the home crowd to help will them back in the game.
Currently, the Celtics have four key players dealing with injuries. Pierce has an MCL sprain in his left knee which can only improve through rest. The same goes for Allen’s bone spurs in his right ankle. He is day-to-day. Bradley’s left shoulder needs to occasionally be popped back in. Mickael Pietrus’s suffers flare ups in his right knee.
For the Celtics to continue this final run for the Big Three deep into the playoffs, they cannot afford to play Russian Roulette against a pesky 76ers team, who is not as talented as the Celtics. The Celtics must come out and dominate early and often.