May 26, 2012, 10:55 AM EDT
It’s usually when even veterans get tight, playing like they are afraid to make a mistake. It means in Game 7 the offensive numbers plummet — but I don’t know that they can much more in Boston vs. Philadelphia.
This has been a series about which team could find enough offense against a good defense to pull out a win. Game 7 Saturday night will be no different. Philadelphia beat Boston in Game 6 with 82 points, and the first team to 80 likely wins this game.
There are no secrets left, no magical adjustments to make, this is just about execution. We all know what both sides are going to do.
For Boston, they have to get their points inside close to the basket. Boston’s jumpers are not falling consistently, so points in the paint matter. That will mean trying to establish Kevin Garnett on the block — and this is where the extra day off between games really helps Boston. KG should be fresher, he should get down the floor fast and establish deep, early position that the Sixers have not been able to stop this series. Philly will need to have a good game (without foul trouble) from Lavoy Allen to try and counter it.
But those points inside also need to come from Rajon Rondo penetration. He can get inside, but the key is for him to finish — he has shot 63 percent in the paint in Boston’s wins in this series, 46 percent in the losses (that stat via the wise John Schuhmann at NBA.com). Watch how well he is closing out his attacks.
For Philly, they are going to have Jrue Holiday attack the paint like he did in Game 6. And if Ray Allen and his bad ankle are covering Evan Turner, you will see Philly attack with Turner (and likely a lot of Lou Williams off the bench). Boston’s defense really misses Avery Bradley’s pressure and turnovers on the perimeter and in their Game 6 win Philly exploited that with some success. They will go back to that well.
Philly also needs some points in transition — get Andre Iguodala out finishing in transition. They have the better athletes — hello Thaddeus Young — but they have been largely bottled up by Boston’s defense this series. If Philly can get some easy buckets in transition or on offensive rebounds it will be difficult for Boston to match.
You think that at home with veterans like Paul Pierce who have been on bigger stages than this the Celtics will step up. This is the kind of game the Celtics historically win.
But it really just comes down to who gets their points in the paint. And probably the first one to 80.
- Sunday NBA grades: Golden State’s Curry, Thompson put on a show 0
- Heat execute in final minutes, Rockets still learning, fall in Miami 16
- Doc Rivers, Clippers players oppose raising NBA’s age limit 23
- Report: LeBron ‘will look at’ Knicks in free agency now that Phil Jackson is in place 69
- Phil Jackson to Knicks could work. It probably won’t, but it could. 32