The Boston Celtics will need their lone healthy member of the Big Three, Kevin Garnett, against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Boston Celtics will play another opponent with whom they share a rich history, the Philadelphia 76ers. This matchup goes back to the days of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell in the 1960’s through the 1980s when Julius Erving and Larry Bird were the stars. The last time these two ancient rivals met in the postseason was 2002 when Allen Iverson was the star of the 76ers and the Celtics were in their first playoff appearance in seven years.
Both of these squads are defensive-minded led by head coaches who have been in the league for a long time. Doc Rivers and Doug Collins even took these jobs after stints as commentators for TNT.
The Celtics won Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks by scoring just 83 points meanwhile the 76ers shot 40.7% in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.
These teams are built very differently. The Celtics are anchored by an aging core of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen while the 76ers are young and athletic just like the Hawks. These foes had different trajectories during the 2011-’12 season. The Sixers started 20-9 and were leading the Atlantic Division for most of the season, but they struggled down the stretch. Meanwhile the Celtics limped to begin the year with a 15-17 record at the All-Star break, but they surged to a 24-10 finish and won the Atlantic Division.
The 76ers leading scorers are their point guards, Jrue Holliday and Lou Williams, who comes off the bench. Holliday averaged 18.2 points per game and he shot 41,9% from the field, including 40.9% from behind the three-point line against the Bulls. Williams, who shot poorly from the field, is a capable shooter despite what he showed against the Bulls. Andre Iguodala is one of the best defenders in the league from both an individual and team standpoint. The majority of Iguodala’s scoring comes in transition offf turnovers, but he has hurt the Celtics in the past late in games with his ability to knock down shots.
Even though the Sixers took two out of three games in the regular season, that will not matter what happens in these next couple of weeks. The Sixers crushed the Celtics 103-71 on March 7th and 99-86 on March 23rd. Meanwhile the Celtics annihilated this same team on Easter Sunday by 24 points. After that blowout, Collins warned everybody “not to blink on the Celtics.”
The Celtics must protect the ball against the 76ers. Rivers made a point in his postgame press conference on Thursday by saying, “We can’t turn the ball over.” The Sixers averaged 9.8 turnovers while forcing 14.3 in their first round series win over the Bulls. When the Sixers get out in transition, they are tough to defend because their guards are good at moving the ball and finishing at the basket. They are quick and they have length. The Celtics cannot afford to play like they did when Garnett was on the pine in the fourth quarter in Game 6 against the Hawks when the Celtics were coughing up the ball.