Celtics hit the road to take on Philly with divison on the line

Boston Celtics (20-17) at Philadelphia 76ers (22-17)
Wednesday, March 7
7:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #38, Road Game #15
TV:   CSN-NE,  CSN-P, NBA-LP 752
Radio:  WEEI,  WIP
Wells Fargo Center
Referees:  Ken Mauer,  Bennie Adams,   Brent Barnaky
This is the first of 3 meetings between these teams.  Philly seemed to be poised to run away with the Atlantic division title before they hit a skid just before the All Star break.  Now, they are just one game in front and the Celtics could pull even with a win in this game.

After losing 5 in a row, the Celtics have now won 5 games in a row. The Sixers have been slumping, having lost their last two games and they have won just 2 games out of their last 10.  They are a good home team though with a 14-8 record while the Celtics have struggled on the road with just 5 wins out of 14 games.

The Sixers have had a day off while the Celtics played a tough overtime game last night with 3 of the starters playing over 40 minutes.  This will be a big test for the Celtics as the schedule gets tougher starting now.  They are going to be on the road for 9 of their next 10 games.  8 of those games will be against teams with a winning record.  And there are 4 more back to back sets on this extended road trip.  How they respond in this one will show a lot about this team.  

With the prospect of moving into a tie for the division,  the Celtics need to come out strong and give their best effort until the final buzzer.  At the end of the night, they will either be tied for the lead in the Atlantic or 2 games back.  I know which one I'm rooting for!

Probable Starters

PG: Rajon Rondo..................................................SG Ray Allen

C:  Kevin Garnett

SF:  Paul Pierce ................................. ............PF Brandon Bass

Coach: Doc Rivers

Boston Bench Mob
Mickael Pietrus
Greg Stiemsma
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
Marquis Daniels
Sasha Pavlovic
Avery Bradley
Keyon Dooling
Chris Wilcox

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Brandon Bass (ankle) expected to play

Probable Starters

PG: Jrue Holiday ......................................................SG: Evan Turner

C:  Nik Vucevic

SF:  Andre Iguodala .................................................. PF:  Elton Brand

Sixers Bench
Thaddeus Young
Andres Nocioni
Lou Williams
Tony Battie
Craig Brackins
Lavoy Allen
Jodie Meeks

Spencer Hawes (acholles)  out

Key Matchups  
Paul Pierce vs Andre Iguodala
Paul Pierce will need to work on the defensive end to keep Iguodala from having a big game offensively.   Pierce has been playing some of his best basketball of the season the past two games and the Celtics will need another big game from him in this one.  Iguodala plays with a lot of energy and Pierce will need to keep up with him.

Rajon Rondo vs Jrue Holiday
 After missing what could have been the game winning layup last night, I expect Rondo to play even harder in this game to try to make up for that blunder.  Also, with the starters putting in big minutes in 2 OT games in a row, Rondo will need to pick up the slack should the other starters be slowed by fatigue. 

Honorable Mention

Kevin Garnett vs Nikolas Vucevic
KG should be able to intimidate the rookie and hopefully will have a big game.   He played over 37 minutes last night against the Rockets and hopefully that won't affect his play in this one.

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.  

Rebound -   The Sixers are a good rebounding team, ranking 6th in the league at 43.3 rebounds per game.   The Celtics, however are ranked 30th at 39.3 rpg.  They were out rebounded by 19 vs the Sixers last night but managed to win the game.    The Celtics have got to put out more effort on the boards as the team that wins the rebounding battle in this game 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 8th in the league with 15.5 turnovers per game.  The Sixers on the other hand turn the ball over the least in the league at 10.6 turnover per game.  The Celtics must move the ball and find the open man without making sloppy passes and turning the ball over.  Their ball movement can be a thing of beauty when they make that extra effort.

Be Aggressive - 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 should aggressively go to the hoop and not depend on outside jumpers.

Official Report
Veteran NBA official Ken Mauer has officiated 1,497 regular season, 119 playoff, and nine Finals games, during his 25-season career. He was also a member of the crew that officiated the 1993 Europe Tour in London and the 2005 Denver All-Star game. Mauer’s resume includes six years of CBA officiating experience, nine years of collegiate officiating experience and 12 years of high school officiating experience in Minnesota. Mauer is very quick to call technicals and in one game, once ejected Doc less than 3 minutes into a game, and that was before the new "Respect the Game" rules. In a recent Timberwolves game he might have set the record by calling 5 technicals in a 10 second span. The Celtics have to be on their best behavior with Mauer calling the game. Mauer was one of the refs charged with tax evasion and obstructing federal tax laws for receiving substantial taxable income from 1989 through 1994 and failing to declare it. He was one of the refs in the controversial Miami/Dallas Finals where the foul calls were totally lopsided, giving the Heat the title. In a Suns/OKC game last season, Mauer told Zabian Dowdell not to be a bitch about the calls. Dowdell asked him if he'd say that off the court and Mauer ejected him from the game for it. The Celtics are 1-0 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Mauer officiating. The win this season was against the Grizzlies where the refs let them play for the most part and the Celtics shot 21 free throws to 16 for the Grizzlies. The Sixers are 3-0 this season and 6-4 in the last 10 games with Mauer. It's tough to know which Mauer will show up - the good one that lets them play or the bad one that tries to control the game. His home W/L record this season is 16-13 and he isn't usually influenced by the home crowd.

Bennie Adams
A former math instructor at Southern University, Adams joined the NBA officiating staff 17 seasons ago, and since then has officiated 904 regular season and four playoff games. In addition, he has been a USA Basketball official since 1995. Adams has also officiated the 2008 NBA Europe Live Tour and the 2002 NBA All Star Rookie Challenge. Adams officiated in the CBA for three years, and worked the 1996 CBA Finals. He also has three years of collegiate officiating experience and 10 years of high school officiating experience in Louisiana. Adams tends to be inconsistent especially on charge/block calls. He is one of Tommy Heinsohn's least favorites. In one game, Tommy went ballistic yelling at the top of his lungs "GO BACK TO YOUR MOMMA BENNIE ADAMS!!!" Adams officiated the loss at Indiana that was poorly called but the Celtics took 24 free throws to 18 for the Pacers. He also called the win against Cleveland where the officiating was good and the Celtics shot 19 free throws to 21 for the Cavs. The Celtics are 6-4 in the last 10 games called by Adams. The Sixers are 0-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Adams. Adams is another ref not easily swayed by the home crowd with a home W/L record this season is 16-16.

Brent Barnaky
Barnaky enters his second NBA season having officiated 60 NBA games. Barnaky came to the NBA with 10 years of collegiate officiating experience, including three years of N.I.T. Tournament play. He officiated the 2008, 2009 and 2010 NBA D-League Playoffs, and the 2009 and 2010 NBA D-League Finals. He entered the NBA last season as one of five refs chosen from the D-League to officiate a handful of games the previous season. Barnaky also has spent time training and developing other officials at referee camps. He has only officiated 5 games for the Celtics previously, 2 wins and 3 losses. Celtics are 0-2 this season with Barnaky. The first loss was the 79-71 loss to the Suns where the Suns took 16 free throws to 9 for the Celtics. The second loss was to the Pistons that Tommy Heinsohn called the worst officiated game all season. Rondo was ejected and the Pistons shot 46 free throws to 15 for the Celtics. He has called 6 Sixers games, 3 wins and 3 losses. His home W/L record this season is 15-9.

Fatigue and the Road
The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games and they are embarking on a long stretch of road games.  They haven't been particularly effective on the road so far this season and this would be a good time to start a winning streak on the road.  Fatigue from playing an OT game the night before might be a factor.  It will be a good time to prove that their age isn't going to stop them down the stretch.