May 14, 2012, 3:59 PM EDT
It was a bit surprising in historical context — this is the Boston Celtics, the franchise of Bill Russell, the team who one a 2008 title thanks to their big front line — but it worked, and that’s all Doc Rivers cares about.
In Game 1, Rivers went small in the fourth quarter with Kevin Garnett at center, Paul Pierce at the four with series of different wings and guards, the Celtics outscored the Sixers by five to win 92-91.
Half of what worked with that lineup was the defense. Philly struggled to get good looks and knock down shots — and were forced to shoot a lot from the midrange and ended up shooting 38 percent in the fourth quarter. Boston’s defense is hard enough to score on, but the Sixers played right into their hands.
The other half was at the other end, Boston ran a lot of Kevin Garnett/Rajon Rondo pick-and-roll and spaced the floor with shooters. Philly could not adjust. They need to for Game 2 (more and better Thaddeus Young please).
Both teams come into Game 2 with some reasons for optimism.
For Boston, they really didn’t play that well, especially for the first 35 minutes of Game 1. Pierce shot just 3-11 with Andre Iguodala on him for long stretches, Rajon Rondo was just 6-15. Ray Allen was 2-7 from three, the rest of the team was 0-11 from deep. These shots can fall. There should be credit given to the Sixers here, they had to give up something and they did — Kevin Garnett or other Celtics bigs and the 18 footer. Thing is, KG can knock that down pretty consistently.
For Philly, they could have won Game 1 on the road, they led most of the way, which should show to them they can hang in this series. There were stretches and lineups where the Sixers were able to get out and run and get some easy transition buckets on the Celtics. They need do more of that.
They need to bounce back mentally and not just expect the Celtics to outplay them at the end. Also, they need more out of Elton Brand.
If Boston can win and go up 0-2 it’s hard to see Philly coming back to win four out of the next five. But if Philly can make a couple more plays and even the series, then it is on.