Celtics Host Sixers in a Battle for the Division

Philadelphia 76ers (29-26) at Boston Celtics (31-24)
Sunday, April 8
6:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #56, Home Game #29
Radio:  WEEI,  WIP
TD Garden
Referees:  Tony Brothers, Kane Fitzgerald, Mark Lindsay
This is the third and final meeting between these two division rivals. The first two meetings were in Philly and both were Sixer wins so Philly has the tie breaker which means that the Celtics must finish with a better record than the Sixers in order to win the division.  A tie would to the Sixers.  The Sixers are 10-14 on the road while the Celtics are 19-9 at home.  The Sixers have lost 3 in a row and are 4-6 in their last 10 games.  The Celtics are looking for their second straight win and are 7-3 in their last 10 games.

Every game against the Sixers this season has come on the back end of back to back games.  Finally though, the Sixers are also playing in the second of back to back games.  The Celtics won in impressive style in Indy and no one played more than 35 minutes.  Philly lost a tough game at home vs the Magic. Iguodala played 43 minutes, which may affect him in this game, but no one else played more than 35 minutes.   Both teams had to travel after their Saturday games.

Entering the game,  the Celtics are in the 4th spot,  2 games ahead of Philly, who are in the 7th spot.   The Celtics must stay ahead of Philly or they would drop back into the 7th spot.  Philly is just 1 game ahead of New York, who are in the 8th spot and they are just 2 games up on Milwaukee for the 9th spot.  The Celtics are also 2.5 games behind Indiana for the 3rd spot and 2 games behind Atlanta who are in the 6th spot.

There are big games,  but this one is huge!  A win would put them 3 games up on Philly for the Atlantic division title.  A loss would cut their lead to just one game.   Hopefully the Celtics won't forget how big this game is and will give a collectively huge effort as a team to win it.

Probable Starters

PG: Rajon Rondo..................................................SG Avery Bradley

C:  Kevin Garnett

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

Coach: Doc Rivers

Boston Bench Mob
Greg Stiemsma
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
Marquis Daniels
Sasha Pavlovic
Ray Allen
Keyon Dooling
Ryan Hollins

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Mickael Pietrus (concussion) out

Probable Starters

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

C: Spencer Hawes

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

Sixers Bench
Thaddeus Young
Sam Young
Nikola Vucevic
Lou Williams
Tony Battie
Craig Brackins
Lavoy Allen
Jodie Meeks
Craig Brackens


Key Matchups  
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.   On Saturday against the Magic, Iguodala struggled, shooting just 2-9 for just 6 points.  He was booed by the Philly crowd as he missed 2 key free throws late in a close game.  He may be looking to redeem himself to the Philly faithful and Pierce needs to be ready.

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. Holiday also struggled against the Magic, shooting 2-9 for 6 points with no assists and 3 turnovers.  This is a game the Celtics need and so hopefully Rondo will be aggressive and take over the game as only he can.

Honorable Mention

Kevin Garnett vs Spencer Hawes
Hawes also had an off night against the Magic going 3-11 and 6 rebounds.  KG played a great game defensively vs Hibbert and hopefully he can keep Hawes off the boards especially.  

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.   The offense feeds off the defense and so defense is the key to a win.

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 grabbed just one rebound less than a good rebounding Pacers team and they need to continue that effort on the boards in this game if they want to get the win.  

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.

Bench Play - The Celtics need to get quality minutes from their bench.  In the last meeting between these two teams, the Sixers bench outscored the Celtics bench 32-18. Ray played great off the bench vs the Pacers and Greg Stiemsma and Sasha Pavlovic also gave the Celtics a boost off the bench both offensively and defensively.  They will need them to come up big for them in this game also.

Back to Back and Home Court
Both teams are playing in back to back games and both teams had to travel.  Which team will show the most mental toughness and shake off the fatigue to get the win.  The Celtics will be at home and so they need to feed off the crowd to get the win.