Celtics looking to take 3-1 advantage back to Boston
Props to QD for the awesome graphic.
Boston Celtics (6-3,2-1) at Philadelphia 76ers (5-4, 1-2)
Eastern Conference Semi-Finals Game 4
Friday, May 18, 2012
8:00 PM ET
Playoff Game #10, Road Game #5
TV: ESPN, TSN
Radio: WEEI, 97.5 The Fanatic
Referees: Scott Foster, Bill Kennedy, Bill Spooner The Celtics finally played like they wanted to win in game 3. Doc said that it started with a very focused Rondo in the shoot around. We have seen so many times that as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. And Rondo was aggressive from the start and the team followed his lead.
Rondo has said that he is ready to bring it in game 4 as well and hopefully he follows through. Kevin Garnett has found the a time machine because he is playing better than he has since 2008. He was seen at the practice facility on the team's day off putting up shots. Paul Pierce has struggled with a knee injury but showed little effects from it in game 3. He wore a brace at the shoot around but said that he will probably do without the brace for the game. The Celtics will need an aggressive Paul Pierce again to get another win on the road.
Ray Allen, Avery Bradley, Mickael Pietrus and Greg Stiemsma are also playing through injuries for the Celtics. Ray took just 1 shot in game 3 but he pulled down 4 rebounds and was very active and helped to spread the floor. Avery is struggling with his shoulder and it's affecting his shot, but he still plays that bull dog defense that the Celtics need. Mickael Pietrus has finally found his shot and was 3-4 from beyond the arc in game 3. He has also been playing great defense in spite of the sore hamstring. Stiemsma has lost much of his playing time to Hollins but he still is capable of coming in and changing shots and grabbing rebounds.
Teams that are up 2-1 win the series 82% of the time. The Celtics can't get complacent though. They need to come out and play game 4 with the same intensity that they played game 3 and get the series over with quickly and then let their injuries heal before the next series.
Probable Starting Matchups Point Guard
Rajon Rondo vs Jrue Holiday
Avery Bradley vs Evan Turner
Paul Pierce vs Andre Iguodala
Brandon Bass vs Elton Brand
Kevin Garnett vs Spencer Hawes
Paul Pierce (knee) probable
Mickael Pietrus (hamstring) probable
Avery Bradley (shoulder) probable
Ray Allen (ankle) day to day
Greg Stiemsma (feet) probable
Key off the Bench
Mickael Pietrus is finally finding his shot and has hit big shots in the last two games. He was 3-4 from beyond the arc in game 3. He is also going to the hoop and rebounding. The Celtics need more of that from him. He is also adding some tough defense.
Ray Allen's contributions in game 3 didn't stand out in the box score but his presence on the court is a big reason the Celtics offense works. Even when he doesn't take a shot he spreads the floor and they have to keep a body on him.
Ryan Hollins brings energy when he comes into the game. The Celtics need him to play good defense and to play without making a lot of mistakes. It would be great if he could grab a few rebounds while he is in there also.
Key Off the Bench
Lavoy Allen has played good defense on KG and has also hit some big shots for them. For a rookie, he's been playing solid minutes off the bench. The Sixers have let it be known that Allen's number one job in this game will be to try to slow down KG.
Lou Williams is capable of putting up a lot of points. He is also capable of shooting them out of the game with ill advised contested shots. The Sixers are hoping for the former while the Celtics would be pleased with the latter.
Thad Young gave the Sixers a big boost off the bench in game 3, scoring 22 points on 10-16 shooting. The Sixers need more of that from him if they want to win this 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 won game 3 by taking their defense to another level. They need to come out playing that same lock down team defense in this game. The defense feeds off the offense and so everything starts with Celtics defense.
Rebound - The Celtics were out-rebounded 47-36 in game 2. They came back and out-rebounded the Sixers 44-37 in game 3. When they crash the boards good things happen. Paul Pierce was aggressive on the boards in game 3 and will hopefully do so again. KG has also been very aggressive in going after rebound. Rebounding is effort and desire. How else can you explain a 6'1" guard out rebounding all the bigs on the court? Every Celtic must have that desire and they have to put out the effort to win the battle of the boards. No rebounds - no win.
Run the Offense - The Celtics had been in a big offensive drought in games 1 and 2. In game 3 they finally started moving the ball and finding the open man and hitting their shots. They shot 52% from the field and played great team ball instead of trying to do too much. Rondo was aggressive in running the offense and got everyone involved. The Celtics need aggressive Rondo again in this game.
Effort and Focus - In the first two games it seemed as though the Celtics didn't get serious about playing until the final stretch. They made sloppy passes. Shot terribly. Didn't fight for rebounds and just generally looked sloppy. They finally played like they wanted to win in game 3 and what a difference. The Celtics need to come out focused and give maximum effort in this game and go back to Boston up 3-1.
Be Aggressive- The Celtics have to be more aggressive in going after rebounds, going after loose balls, and driving to the basket, especially if their shots aren't falling. Even if the shots are falling, going to the basket will draw fouls and get them into the bonus. They also have continue the aggressive defense they played in game 3.
Take Care of the Ball - The Sixers are very good at scoring off turnovers. The Celtics had 13 turnovers in game 1 and 17 in game 2 and the Sixers made them pay for them. In game 3, the Celtics committed only 7 turnovers. They were much more focused on making smart passes and taking care of the ball. They need to continue to take care of the ball and avoid costly turnovers in this game.
A veteran official of 17 NBA seasons, Scott Foster has worked 1,074 regular season and 80 playoff games, including seven Finals games during his career. He was a member of the crew that officiated the 1996 Europe Tour in Berlin, Germany and Seville, Spain. In addition to his NBA experience, Foster has two years of CBA officiating experience, two years of collegiate officiating experience and six years of high school officiating experience in Maryland. Prior to becoming an official, Foster modeled for department store mannequin mold makers. He came into the public eye as the best friend of former referee Tim Donaghy. In his book, Donaghy describes Foster as a very honest and good guy who knew nothing of his gambling. However, recently Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was also part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided for the Lakers with 21 free throws for the Lakers and 6 for the Celtics in the final 12 minutes. The Celtics are 4-2 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Foster on the court. In the OT win over the Knicks, NY shot 26 free throws to 22 for the Celtics. In the first loss, at New Orleans, the Celtics shot 18 free throws to 25 for the Hornets. The second loss, at Denver, was horribly officiated. At the end of 3 quarters, the Nuggets had 22 free throws to 5 for the Celtics. They ignored fouls against the Celtics all game but at the same time, called them for ticky tack and non-existent fouls. For the game, the Nuggets shot 31 free throws to 17 for the Celtics. The 4th game was against Miami and was called evenly with the Celtics shooting 25 free throws to 27 for the Heat. The next game was a win over the Bucks where they shot 23 free throws to 11 for the Celtics. And finally, Foster called game 2 in Atlanta where the Celtics shot 31 free throws to 20 for the Hawks. The Sixers are 2-2 this season and 3-7 with Foster in their last 10 games. His home W/L record this season is 33-24. Foster as a lead ref makes me nervous. He can be good but he can also be very bad.
Kennedy’s 13 seasons of NBA officiating experience include 814 regular season and 42 playoff games including 3 Finals games. In addition to his NBA experience, Kennedy has 5 years officiating experience in the CBA, including working the 1996 and 1997 CBA Finals. He also officiated 2 games in the WNBA Finals in 1998, and has 15 years of high school officiating experience in Arizona. Celtics fans will remember Kennedy's run in with Doc Rivers that resulted in both of them being fined. Yes, David Stern fined one of his precious refs and certainly, Kennedy hasn't forgotten. Here is how Doc described the incident:
"[Kennedy] stood there and goaded me and goaded me and goaded me and stared at me," Rivers said. "Look at the film. I actually walked away. He asked me, 'Where do you want the ball?' And I said, 'Ask them,' talking about our players. That's my right to say that, and I walked away. He stood there and stared me down and stared me down and goaded me until I turned around and said, 'What?' That's when I got thrown out of the game."
Doc was fined for criticizing a referee, but since the league fined Kennedy, they as much as admitted that Doc's criticism was deserved. Go figure. According to Tim Donaghy, Bill Kennedy is gay and his beef with Doc stems from Doc questioning his sexual orientation. The Celtics are 2-1 with Kennedy this season. The win was at Indiana where the Pacers shot 31 free throws to 14 for the Celtics. When the Pacers were down 7, Kennedy called a bogus flagrant foul on Pietrus that gave the Pacers 2 shots and the ball. And if that wasn't enough he called another technical on Pietrus for taunting on that same play. In a 7 point game with 34 seconds to go, they handed the Pacers 5 points. Much was said about Kennedy's past with Doc before game 6 with Atlanta but that game was well officiated, with the Celtics getting some big calls down the stretch. That may just have set the table for the big payback in this one, or as Sherrod Blakely said before that Atlanta game, he may go out of his way to be fair to the Celtics because of that past experience. The Celtics are 7-3 over their last 10 games with Kennedy on the court. The Sixers are 3-1 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with Kennedy. His home W/L record this season is 34-23.
Over the past 22 seasons, veteran official Bill Spooner has worked 1,234 regular season games, and 79 NBA playoff games. He officiated his first two Finals games during the 2010-11 season. In addition to his NBA experience, Spooner has seven years of collegiate officiating experience. He also has eight years of high school officiating experience in his home state of California. Spooner is the ref who failed to call Kobe's elbow to the throat of Ron Artest a couple years back, even though he was the ref in position to call it. Artest's complaints resulted in his ejection but nothing was called on Kobe in the game. The league later admitted their error and assessed Kobe a flagrant 1 for the elbow. But that didn't help Houston who had to play without Artest the rest of the game. Spooner is also the ref that was caught by a reporter telling Kurt Rambis that he would make up for a bad call he made on the other end. The Celtics are 3-2 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Spooner while the Spurs are 0-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. One loss was in Dallas where the Celtics took 32 free throws to 25 for the Mavs and the officiating was pretty bad both ways. The other was a 1 point loss to the Spurs in which the Celtics shot 13 free throws to 11 for the Spurs. In the 3 wins, the Celtics shot 68 free throws to 58 for their opponents and the officiating was pretty much even for both teams. This is the first game in the playoffs with Spooner. The Sixers are 1-0 this season and 2-8 over their last 10 games with Spooner on the court. Spooner's home W/L record this season of 31-20.
Effort, Injuries and Officiating
The Celtics finally started playing with some effort in game 3. They need to come out with the same effort and intensity if they want to get a win in this game and go back to Boston up 3-1.
The Celtics need to have an aggressive Paul Pierce again in this game. Will his knee injury flare up after his play in game 3 or will he once again have another big game?
As we have seen way too many times, the officials can have an effect on a game. The Celtics are on the road and can't expect to get calls. They need to keep their focus and play through the calls. Hopefully it will be a fairly called game.