Celtics host Sixers as Round 2 begins

Hat Tip to QD for the graphic.
Philadelphia 76ers (4-2, 0-0) at Boston Celtics (4-2,0-0)
Eastern Conference Semi Finals
Saturday, May 12, 2012
8:00 PM ET
Playoff Game #7, Home Game #4
Radio:  WEEI,  97.5 The Fanatic
TD Garden
Referees:  Greg Willard,  James Capers,  David Jones

As we begin this series, we can just throw out the regular season in which the Sixers were 2-1 vs the Celtics. The Celtics won by 24 points on their home court while the Sixers won by 13 and 32 in Philly.  What makes the regular season especially different from this series is that in each of the regular season games, the Celtics were playing in back to back games (including one after an OT game on the road) and Philly was off the night before each.  Besides that, we know that the playoff Celtics are a different breed from the regular season Celtics.

While in the Celtics' first round series, both teams were affected by injuries, it's a different story in this series.  The Sixers come into this series healthy and with no injuries listed.   The Celtics on the other hand come into the series bruised and battered with Pierce (knee), Allen (ankle), Stiemsma (feet), Bradley (shoulder) and Pietrus (hamstring) all nursing injuries.   I'm not sure if the Sixers are harbingers of bad luck but teams that play them seem to end up with injuries.  The Bulls lost Rose, Noah and Gibson all to injuries in their first round series.  The last time the Celtics played the Sixers in Philly, Mickael Pietrus had to be taken off the court on a stretcher.  Not a good track record on their part.

Both teams are coming off a 6 game series.  Both teams won their series without home court.  Because the Sixers are the 8th seed, the Celtics will have home court in this series.  Twelve out of twelve of the ESPN "experts" picked the Celtics to win this series.  Most believe the Celtics are the better team but injuries may end up being a factor.  The Celtics especially need Paul Pierce to be effective and to play well.

Don't expect a lot of bulletin board material from the Sixers.  I have a feeling that after hearing KG's press conference, Doug Collins called his players in and threatened them to within an inch of their lives not to say anything negative about the Celtics.  I listened to Andre Iguodala on ESPN Radio and you would think he was doing PR for the Celtics.  No, KG isn't dirty. He's just passionate and a great player.  No, the Celtics aren't old.  They are experienced.  Doc is the best coach in the league.  The Celtics are all wonderful.  Not even a hint of anything negative.    Lou Williams also came out saying that Rondo is his favorite guard in the league.   

It will be important for the Celtics to get off to a quick start in this game and in the series.  They have to come out strong, hit the Sixers hard, and never look back.  If they let the Sixers gain confidence, it could be a very tough series.

Probable Starters

PG: Rajon Rondo 16.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 11.8 APG, + 24.6 EFF *
SG: Avery Bradley  7.2 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.7 APG,  +5.17 EFF

C: Kevin Garnett 18.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.0 APG,  +25.17 EFF

SF:  Paul Pierce  21.2 PPG,  6.3 RPG, 3.8 APG,  + 19.67 EFF
PF: Brandon Bass 9.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.5 APG,  +11.00 EFF
* Playoff Statistics

Coach: Doc Rivers

Celtics Reserves
Greg Stiemsma
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
Marquis Daniels
Sasha Pavlovic
Ray Allen
Keyon Dooling
Ryan Hollins
Mickael Pietrus

Paul Pierce (knee) probable
Mickael Pietrus (hamstring) probable
Avery Bradley (shoulder)  probable
Ray Allen (ankle) day to day
Greg Stiemsma (feet)  probable

Probable Starters

PG: Jrue Holiday  18.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, +18.33 EFF
SG: Evan Turner  11.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.8 APG,  +11.83 EFF

C: Spencer Hawes  11.5 PPG,  8.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, +16.17 EFF

SF: Andre Iguodala  12.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.5 APG,  +14.33 EFF
PF: Elton Brand  8.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG,  0.7 APG,  +11.33

Sixers Reserves
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.   Pierce came up big for the Celtics in the first round as did Iguodala for the Sixers. Pierce was practicing with a brace on both knees and has alternated between playing inspired basketball and being a step too slow.  Hopefully he comes out inspired in this one.  

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 has been playing very well for the Sixers and so Rondo will need to defend well, along with running the offense effectively.

Honorable Mention

Kevin Garnett vs Spencer Hawes
KG has been on another level in these playoffs and once again he will be matched up against an athletic big man.  KG's defense and rebounding will be needed just as much, if not more in this series.    

Key Off the Bench

Ray Allen has been playing through pain and after game 6 said that his ankle was really bothering him.  He is back to being listed as day to day once again.  The Celtics really need his scoring off the bench since Pietrus has been very ineffective offensively so far in the playoffs.

Lou Williams gives the Sixers a boost off the bench scoring almost 13 points per game.  He came up with a big shot in game 6 to help them advance and he can be a dangerous scorer if left open.

Keys to the Game
Defense - As always, defense is key to winning.  Period.  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 tough  defense is absolutely the key to a win and the series.  The Sixers are also a very good defensive team and will surely limit the Celtics offense.  The Celtics need to make sure their defense is better.

Rebound -   The Sixers are a good rebounding team, ranking 7th in the league at 43.2 rebounds per game in the regular season.   The Celtics finished the season ranked 30th at 38.8 rpg.  However, both teams are dead even in the playoffs at 41.17 rebounds per game.  Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics have got to continue to crash the boards as a team since the team that wins the rebounding battle will more than likely win the war.

Take Care of the Ball  - The Celtics tend to turn the ball over way too much.  In the regular season, the Celtics averaged 14.8 TO per game while Philly averaged 12.8.  In the playoffs, the Celtics have cut their turnovers to 12.8 per game while the Sixers have cut theirs down even more to 9.8, in spite of playing an excellent defensive team in the Bulls.   The Celtics must move the ball and find the open man without making sloppy passes and turning the ball over.  Doc has singled out limiting turnovers as the most important thing they have to do.    They must keep their focus and take care of the ball as the Sixers will make them pay if they don't.

Bench Play - The Celtics need to get quality minutes from their bench. With the injuries and fatigue becoming a factor as they move further into the playoffs,   they have to find a way to rest their starters without giving up a lead or digging a hole.  With Ray once again being day to day,  Pietrus, Dooling and others must step up to give the Celtics some scoring off the bench and some preservation of the starters.

Control the Pace - Doc mentioned that the Celtics were about to take on a bunch of gazelles.  The Sixers do like to run and they like to keep the game at a fast pace.  The Celtics have got to find a way to slow the pace of the game down.   They can do this by taking care of the ball, crashing the boards and playing tough defense.

Official Report
Greg Willard
Greg Willard has officiated 1,464 regular season, 124 playoff, and two
Finals games since joining the NBA officiating staff 23 seasons ago. Prior to joining the NBA, Willard spent four years officiating in the CBA and has four years of collegiate officiating experience in the PCAA and Pac-10 Conferences. He is known for being wildly inconsistent in calling charges and blocks. The Celtics are 3-1 this season and 8-2 over their last 10 games with Willard on the court. He called the second of the Wizards games that the Celtics won In which the Celtics were called for 23 fouls compared to 17 for the Wizards. He also called the loss vs Phoenix where the Celtics shot just 9 free throws to 16 for the Suns. He also called the win vs Chicago where the Celtics shot 26 free throws to 24 for the Bulls. The last game he officiated for the Celtics this season was against the Bobcats where the Celtics shot 17 free throws to 20 for the Bobcats. All 4 games were called pretty well. The Sixers are 3-0 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. He isn't influenced by the home crowd and has a home W/L record this season of 29-27.

James Capers
The son of former NBA official James Capers Sr., who was a ref for 22 years, James Capers has officiated 969 regular season games and 44 playoff games during his 16-season NBA career. In addition to his NBA experience, Capers has six years of CBA officiating experience, including three CBA Finals and two CBA All-Star Games. Capers was the recipient of the 1998 Monarch Award as Chicago Sportsman of the Year for his career and community achievements. Capers also conducts NBA Read to Achieve programs at two Chicago Public schools. He has also volunteered to train referees for the Philippines basketball association. I've seen several posts from Lakers fans who swear he hates the Lakers. At least he has that in his favor. The Celtics are 3-0 with Capers this season. In a 100-64 win over the Raptors, the Celtics shot 12 free throws to 18 for the Raptors. The second game was against the Warriors where the Celtics shot 21 free throws to 19 for the Warriors. The 3rd win was vs Orlando in which the Celtics shot 27 free throws to 30 for the Magic. All 3 games were well officiated. The Celtics are 7-3 over their last 10 games with Capers. The Sixers are 1-3 this season and 3-7 over their last 10 games. His home W/L record this season is 28-21.

David Jones
David Jones has officiated 1,335 regular season games and 40 playoff games throughout his 22 seasons as an NBA official. In addition, Jones officiated both the men’s and women’s 2000 Olympic Bronze Medal Games. Jones has eight years of collegiate officiating experience. He was one of the refs who helped to train Tim Donaghy and was very outspoken in condemning Donaghy's actions and felt that Donaghy's actions took the "ethics and integrity of the profession and threw them out the window." I guess he hasn't looked very hard at the current crop of refs that also lacks ethics and integrity. The Celtics are 4-1 this season and 0-2 in the playoffs with Jones officiating. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games with Jones. In the first win against Orlando, the Celtics shot 19 free throws compared to 31 for the Magic. In the second win, the Celtics shot 12 free throws to 18 for the Raptors. In the third win, the Celtics shot 11 free throws to 25 for the Wolves. In the 4th win, the Celtics shot 25 free throws to 27 for the Heat. The officiating was fairly decent in all of them. The loss was the 4/20 game vs the Hawks where the Celtics bench almost beat the Hawks starters. 18 fouls were called on the Celtics in that game vs 8 for the Hawks. He also was one of the refs in the game 5 loss to the Hawks and once again, the officiating was pretty good in that game. The Sixers are 1-3 this season and 1-9 in their last 10 games with Jones. Another ref that isn't influenced by the home crowd, he has a home W/L record this season of 29-27.

Injuries, Officiating, and Home Court
The Sixers are healthy.  The Celtics are not.  Can the Celtics overcome their injuries to play effectively?  Whether we like it or not, officiating does have an effect on the games.  In game 1 vs the Hawks we saw the officiating affect the game against the Celtics and in game 6 we saw it influence the game for the Celtics.  Overall, the officiating has been pretty good.  Hopefully it will be fair and not influence the game either way in this one.  And finally, the Celtics have home court and hopefully they will get a boost from the home crowd.