Celtics and Sixers fight for Atlantic Division lead
at Boston Celtics (25-21) at Philadelphia 76ers (26-20)
Friday, March 23
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #47, Road Game #23
TV: ESPN, NBAC, CSN-NE, CSN-P,
Radio: WEEI, WIP
Wells Fargo Center
Referees: Zach Zarba, Marat Kogut, Eric Lewis
This is the second meeting between these two division rivals. The first meeting was also in Philly and ended with a 103-71 blow out loss for the Celtics. The Sixers are 16-9 at home while the Celtics are 9-13 on the road. The Sixers are coming off a loss while the Celtics have won 2 games in a row.
The Celtics are playing in back to back games, having played in Milwaukee on Thursday, while the Sixers were off on Thursday after playing the Knicks on Wednesday night. This game has huge playoff implications for both teams.
Entering the game, the Celtics are just 1/2 game behind Philly for the Atlantic Division lead and for the 4th seed in the East. A win would put them in that 4th spot and on top of the division. A loss would drop them to a game and half behind the Sixers for the division lead and the privilege of avoiding the Heat and Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. They are also just 1.5 games behind Atlanta for the 6th spot and 2.5 games ahead of New York for the 8th spot. Every game counts and with so much on the line, the Celtics must find a way to get this win.
They need to remember how they were blown out in Philly the last time and they need to realize what is at stake in this game. They have won in back to back games on the road before when they gave the effort to do so, and they have to reach deep down and do it again.
There are big games, but this one is more than big! The division lead, the 4th seed, and a possible first round exit in the playoffs are all at stake in this game. This is finally the last game on their brutal road trip and with the end in sight and the Atlantic Division lead within reach, the Celtics must give all they've got to get this win.
PG: Rajon Rondo..................................................SG Ray Allen
C: Kevin Garnett
SF: Paul Pierce ................................. ............PF Brandon Bass
Coach: Doc Rivers
Boston Bench Mob
SF: Andre Iguodala .................................................. PF: Elton Brand
Paul Pierce vs Andre Iguodala
Both of these players were all stars and both are key to their team's success. The Celtics will need a big game from Pierce on both ends of the court for the Celtics to win this one. In their first meeting this year, Pierce shot 5-13 from the field for 16 points with 4 rebounds and no assists. Iguodala scored 10 points on 5-11 shooting but he also passed out 8 assists and pulled down 7 rebounds.
Rajon Rondo vs Jrue Holiday
As has been the case so many times, as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. They will need him to be aggressive and to set the pace for the game. In their first meeting Holiday's line was 10 points, 1 rebound, 6 assists and 3 steals. Rondo had 5 points, 8 assists, 1 rebound and 2 steals, but we know he is capable of so much more when he sets his mind to it. This is a game the Celtics need and so hopefully he sets his mind to it.
Ray Allen vs Evan Turner
Turner had a breakout game in their last meeting with 26 points (11-19), 9 rebounds, 2 assists, while Ray had a very un-Ray-like game with 2 points (0-5), 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. Ray owes him one in this game. Hopefully Turner has come back to earth and the Celtics can play better defense on him while Ray continues his hot shooting from the second half of their last game.
Keys to the Game Defense - As always, defense is key to getting the win. The Celtics must play tough in your face defense from start to finish. They can't let themselves get caught up in a shoot out and must concentrate on getting stops. They especially have to be sure that Turner doesn't go off on them again.
Rebound - The Sixers are a good rebounding team, ranking 4th in the league at 43.5 rebounds per game. The Celtics, however are ranked 30th at 38.1 rpg. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics have got to put out more effort on the boards as the team that wins the rebounding battle will more than likely win the war. The Celtics have to limit the Sixers' rebounds to prevent second chance baskets and tip ins.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics tend to turn the ball over way too much. They are 11th in the league with 15.3 turnovers per game. The Sixers on the other hand turn the ball over the least in the league at 10.8 turnover per game. The Celtics must move the ball and find the open man without making sloppy passes and turning the ball over. It seems as though the Celtics go on a run and then they lose focus and get sloppy and turn the ball over on several possessions. They must keep their focus and take care of the ball as the Sixers will make them pay if the Celtics turn it over.
Effort and Focus - With the prospect of winning the division on the line, the Celtics should give nothing less than their absolute best effort. They need to be aggressive in going after loose balls, in defending, in rebounding and in taking the ball to the basket. They must keep their focus on the boards, handling the ball, getting good shots, and defending.
Bench Play - The Celtics got 31 points from their bench against the Bucks. In this game, especially playing in back to back games, they have to get a boost from the bench once again. Ryan Hollins is expected to be with the team for this game and may or may not play. With Stiemsma dealing with a sore foot, it would be great to get something from Hollins as well.
Zach Zarba has officiated 504 regular season NBA games and 13 Playoff games during his eight-year career. Prior to joining the NBA, Zarba officiated in the NBA Development League for two years where he was part of the crew that officiated
the 2003 D-League Finals. He also spent one year officiating in the CBA and two years officiating in the IBL. Zarba has three years of collegiate officiating experience. In addition, he has three years of high school officiating experience in New York. The Celtics are 1-1 with Zarba this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with him. Both games this season were called somewhat evenly. The Sixers are 3-1 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Zarba as an official. His W/L record this season is 24-14.
Kogut is entering his 3rd season as an NBA referee. The son of immigrants from the Ukraine, his younger years were sometimes tough. His family immigrated when he was just 7 days old. At one time he and his family were homeless and slept on a park bench when they were forced to leave a Queens homeless center. In high school, he spent his free time volunteering as a ref at a local recreation league. At 6-foot-2, he knew he wasn’t tall or talented enough to make the pros as a player. At 16, Kogut became the youngest person certified by the local International Association of Approved Basketball Officials. His professional experience includes 3 years in the WNBA, as well as 4 years in the NBA Development League, where he officiated over 180 games, including the Finals in his last two seasons and the 2009 D-League All-Star Game in Phoenix, Ariz. Prior to joining the NBA officiating staff, Kogut worked several years at the college level as well as 4 years in New York metro area High School basketball. Also, he spent two years in Atlanta working for the Supervisor of Officials of the Southeastern Conference. The Celtics are 0-2 this season and 6-4 in the last 10 games with Kogut calling the them. One loss was to the Knicks on Christmas Day in which the Celtics shot 30 free throws to 34 for the Knicks. The other loss was to the Lakers where the officiating was terrible and LA shot 20 free throws to 5 (yes, FIVE) for the Celtics. The Sixers are 1-0 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Kogut as a ref. His home W/L record this season is 19-12.
This is Lewis' seventh season as an NBA official. He has 427 regular season games and six playoff games. Prior to the NBA he worked three seasons in the NBA Development League, where he worked the 2004 D-League Finals and the 2003 and 2004 Playoffs. He also has 8 years experience calling college games and 6 years officiating high school games. In the offseason he works with troubled teens. The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Lewis as a ref. One loss this season was at home vs Cleveland. The refs in that game were terrible and allowed hacking all night by the Cavs. They failed to call a very obvious foul against Pierce in crunch time. The Cavs took 20 free throws to 14 for the Celtics. The second loss was the Bulls where the officiating was again terrible. The Bulls shot 9 free throws before the Celtics got to the line even once and the Bulls shot 28 free throws to 18 for the Celtics. The win was in OT vs the Knicks where the Knicks shot 26 free throws to 22 for the Celtics. The Sixers are 0-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games. His home W/L record this season is 21-17.
Fatigue and the Road
The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games and they are closing out a long stretch of 8 road games. They are road weary to be sure, but they should be energized by their win vs the Bucks that ended their 6 game win streak and they have to be motivated by the blow out they received from the Sixers in their last meeting.