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NBA Playoffs Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

May 11, 2012, 4:36 PM EDT

Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Kevin Garnett AP

SEASON RECORDS

Boston: 39-27 (No. 5 seed)
Philadelphia: 35-31 (8 seed)

SEASON SERIES

Philadelphia took it 2-1, with the home team winning easily in each game.

KEY INJURIES
Celtics: Paul Pierce has a sprained knee that will not be right until this summer, Ray Allen is battling through ankle pain that may need surgery, and Avery Bradley has a bum shoulder. They will all play but the Sixers are banged up.

Sixers: Nothing that will cause players to miss a game.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Celtics: Off. 101.0 (27th in NBA); Def. 98.2 (1st in NBA)
Sixers: Off. 103.9 (20th in NBA); Def. 99.2 (3rd in NBA)

THREE KEY CELTICS:

Paul Pierce: He was at the best we have seen him in a while during the first round, averaging 21.2 points and 6.3 rebounds a game while Ray Allen was slowed with an ankle injury. The Celtics are going to need the same out of him in this round — but he’s going to have to do it with Andre Iguodala draped all over him. That’s a much tougher task.

Rajon Rondo: He also was dynamic in the first round and picked up his shooting pace, averaging 16.8 points and 11.8 assists per game. He has a matchup he can exploit with Jrue Holiday but he also may be called upon to play some defense on Lou Williams, the Sixers potent bench scorer.

Kevin Garnett: Boston is better when he is playing the five spot, and he stepped up and scored 28 points in Game 6 to help close out the Hawks. They are going to need offense from him in this series, and they are going to need him to play good defense on Spencer Hawes — laugh if you want Celtics fans but Hawes ability to step out and hit shots and his ball movement is key to making the Sixers halfcourt offense work.

Note to Philadelphia ownership — don’t insult him through the media. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

THREE KEY SIXERS:

Andre Iguodala: In a series where points will be hard to come by the Sixers need him to excel at both ends of the floor. He needs to slow down Paul Pierce on defense, then get some transition and opportunistic points on offense. And maybe getting a few jump shots to fall as well. He is the guy who has to step up big if the Sixers are going to win this series.

Lou Williams: He comes off the bench but he is the one Sixer who can just light up the scoreboard, and he is the guy with the ball in his hands on crucial plays at the end of games. He averaged 12.8 points per game in the first round, but his three point shooting was off, he needs to knock down the looks he gets in this series.

Spencer Hawes: People are just starting to realize how key he is for Philly. He averaged 15.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in the final four games of the Bulls series, but he didn’t have to do that against Joakim Noah… or now Kevin Garnett. If KG shuts him down the 76ers halfcourt offense stagnates — he is the guy that gets the ball moving side to side and gets them open looks. Philly needs him to be on.

OUTLOOK

Bet the under. Look at the statistical ranking above — two top-three defenses and two bottom-10 offenses. These are going to be low scoring, ugly affairs.

What it really comes down to — whichever team can get some consistent offensive spark is going to win. One way to do that is creating turnovers with their defense — something Boston was much better at during the season. Boston forced the other team to turn the ball over on 14.9 percent of their possessions (4th best in NBA), the Sixers on just 13.5 percent (19th). The problem for Boston is Philly was the best team in the NBA at taking care of the ball last season (10.9 percent of possessions ended in a turnover). If either side coughs the ball up and those become easy transition points the other way, it is a huge advantage.

It just seems to me Boston has more consistent weapons when it comes to getting those points — Rondo, Garnett, Pierce can all step up on a given night with a huge game. And Ray Allen is still lurking out there and could catch fire. Philly has Iguodala and Williams, and Jrue Holiday has had good games (and needs to have a monster series if Philly is to win) but it’s just not as many weapons.

The games will be low scoring and close, it will be the little things that decide it in the end. Like having home court advantage so your role players may give you a boost in more games. Or just having savvy veterans who have been through the wars and seem to make plays at key times. All things Boston has.

PREDICTION

Celtics in 7 games.

  1. bearsstillsuck - May 11, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    I doubt it’ll take seven games.

  2. areyesrn - May 11, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    I’m a Sixers fan, but they won that Chicago series despite being absolutely awful. There is no way that same team wins more than a game in this series.

    For the Sixers to take it to 7 and maybe win the series, Thad Young and Evan Turner needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end and Elton Brand actually has to make some of those mid range jump shots that he missed in the first round…I think he missed all of them. LOL. He’s usually money with the mid range, but he was completely off this past week.

  3. doopdoop10 - May 11, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    Sixers in 7!!

  4. passerby23 - May 11, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Celtics in 6 for the same reasons listed above. They just have more weapons, plus homecourt. Garnett is going to put the clamps on Hawes.

  5. wamj2008 - May 11, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    Anyone know why the No. 5 Celtics are playing the No. 8 76ers? Shouldn’t the No. 2 Heat play the No. 8 76ers? (Highest seed plays lowest seed)

  6. gallaghedj311 - May 11, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    Sixers in 6

  7. redblue560 - May 11, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Celtics are banged up by the Hawks series. Unless the bench can step up, this will be a quick series for the sixers. Dr. J was hired as a consultant, he attended the Hawks-Celtics game, probably to scout both teams. The sixers also tend to go after the rebound when they make long shots whereas the celtics, when they make the long shots, I think there is a confidence factor not to go in the paint because it will go in, when it misses which they happen to do a lot, there is nobody for the rebound for a chance at second shot.

    Sixers in 5.

    • passerby23 - May 11, 2012 at 6:48 PM

      Rondo is a nightmare for Philly. Garnett is a bad matchup for Hawes. Iguodala is going to be asked to be a scoring threat and slow Paul Pierce. Avery Bradley and Mikael Pietrus are solid defenders who can bother Philly’s perimeter-oriented attack.

      Where the Celtics can be hurt is on the glass. There’s no way Philly wins in 5 even if they play great ball. The only way the Sixers win this series at all is if Boston’s injuries become a lot worse.

  8. mall0215 - May 11, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    Sixers in 6. Book it. Lol

  9. JMil_ATL - May 11, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    Hope the c’s get swept

  10. bleedgreen4life - May 11, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    I think home court is gonna be huge. Surprisingly the sixers are 3-0 at home in the playoffs this year. I hope it doesn’t go to 7 because I think it will be pretty tough to win that game in the garden. If the Bulls were to of brought it back to Chicago for game 7 I guarantee you we’d be looking at a completely different matchup.

  11. giselleisasucubus - May 11, 2012 at 10:14 PM

    Here’s what will happen- the Sixers were struggle bad in the halfcourt game, steal a couple, but eventually lose in six. Sound familiar? This series will be similar to Atlanta(who is better than Philly when Horford is playing)

    • giselleisasucubus - May 11, 2012 at 10:14 PM

      will, my bad

    • bleedgreen4life - May 12, 2012 at 2:08 AM

      Philly swept Atlanta this year 3-0

  12. lucidsportsfan - May 12, 2012 at 4:21 AM

    I’m wondering if maybe the Celtics should rest Pierce and Allen in game 1. I think they can still handle Philly… http://www.lucidsportsfan.com/2012_05_06_archive.html#3774281075252091023

  13. sledgehorn - May 12, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    This is going to be one ugly series.
    That being said; if the Sixers come out of this series alive they will have ran the defensive gauntlet.
    Chicago then Boston? Whoever gets out of the Pacers/Heat series will be easy defensively in comparison.

  14. klownboy - May 12, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    This should be a sweep…
    http://theklowntimes.net/2012/05/12/2012-nba-playoff-preview-eastern-conference-semifinals/

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