(AP Photo/David Zalubowski - Edit by: Payton Wales)
The Celtics open up their second round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers by dodging the Chicago Bulls bullet thanks to Derrick Rose’s injury. Looking at this match up has a lot of Celtics fans salivating at the mouth. Don’t be so quick to skip over this series looking at the potential Eastern Conference Finals opponent, at least no so fast.
Are the fans forgetting about the season series between the Celtics and 76ers? In the first game on March 7th, when the Celtics came in with a 20-17 record after turning things around from the start of the season, the 76ers put Celtics fans back to reality that this was going to be one long and tough road to the playoffs. Philadelphia ran away with a 103-71 victory at home by outrebounding the Celtics 54-35. More impressive was the way Philadelphia closed out defensively. There is no doubt that the 76ers are younger and will have more energy, even younger than the Hawks.
The second game during the lockout-shortened season resulted in another loss by the Celtics to the 76ers. The Celtics returned to Philadelphia 16 days later with a 25-21 record, only to be humbled once again 99-86 led by Philadelphia’s rebounding advantage 46-35. The pace of the game was in Philadelphia’s favor too as they took 92 shots compared to Boston’s 74. Ray Allen didn’t play in this game and Pietrus was hospitalized in this one. It was a tough third quarter where the 76ers took advantage by outscoring Boston by 20 in that quarter.
The last game in the regular season was the return of Ray Allen, but coming off the bench because Avery Bradley has earned every right to start. Philadelphia came into Boston when they were in a slide; they lost their swagger during the end of the season. Boston took advantage, although losing the rebounding battle 39-37; they dominated defensively only allowing 38% shooting and 18% from three. Boston ran away with this one 103-79 to give a little pay back to the 76ers.
I know most fans will stick to this last game because it was the most recent, has Boston in their playoff form and was in Boston, since the Celtics have home court. All these points are valid, but don’t overlook the 76ers here. They have the personal and style that can be a nightmare for the, um, older team. (Trying not to piss off Garnett since he reads this website.)
Even with the slide at the end of the season, the 76ers were ranked fifth in point differential right behind Chicago, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami, Boston is ranked 11th.
The main reason why I believe this series will end up going 6 or more games is the fact that Philadelphia has tough wing defenders. No doubt Jrue Holliday will have his hands full trying to stop the playoffs MVP (so far), Rajon Rondo. I also see Paul Pierce struggling in this series. We know he is banged up and will be matched against Andre Iguodala (DPOY candidate) and Evan Turner. Both are younger and physical players, which will require everything Paul Pierce has.
Brandon Bass will have another disappointing playoff series here matching up against the veteran, Elton Brand. With the Celtics running their small ball, I suspect Collins to continue running the Brand and Spencer Hawes line up, which will require another superhuman series from the big ticket.
The X factors and reason why I think the Celtics will come out of this series is Rajon Rondo (duh) and the bench. The Celtics bench, led by Ray Allen, will need to be able to put some points up. This series will be a low scoring contest (first to 100 wins!), which is why the Celtics bench will need guys to step up. Whether that is Keyon Dooling, Mickael Pietrus, Ray Allen or even Ryan Hollins, a couple of these guys will have to show up on any given night.
This series will not be easy, so before you start looking ahead to Miami (or Indiana), you should really take the 8th seed Philadelphia 76ers seriously. Jacob Noble 5/12/2012 10:48:00 AM Tweet