Apologies for the late pregame, some travel woes delayed the release. Let's call this one the halftime show.
First of all, let me get some procedural stuff out of the way. Andrew Bynum is not playing tonight due to knee injury. There seems to be no timetable for his return.
The Celtics have had their fair share of struggles in the fledgling season. They’ve only won against the Washington Wizards. Like the Sixers, the Celtics have retained the majority of their core. And, like the Sixers they have been trying to integrate a cadre of new players.
The Sixers will struggle to find matchup advantages in this game. At best, the point guard matchup will be a wash. Rajon Rondo is one of the smartest, fastest guards in the NBA, but Jrue’s length is always difficult to deal with(expect this to be a constant refrain in the analysis. Jrue is truly one of the unique guards in terms of physical tools). There might be an advantage for Thaddeus Young depending on who guards him. Obviously Kevin Garnett remains one of the league’s elite defenders, but there could be situations where he finds Paul Pierce on him, and he needs to take advantage of that situation.
Interestingly, the Sixer with the most likely matchup advantage will be Evan Turner. The Celtics have some quality two guards, but none of them have the size to completely box in Evan Turner’s game.
It also seems like the Sixers have a unique penchant for being the victims of some of Doc Rivers’s best drawn plays. (One might recall the alley oop play the Celtics pulled off to win a nail-biter against the Sixers in 2010).
Here’s my three pointers on how to win this game:
Push the tempo. The Celtics are almost always at the bottom of the league in terms of offensive pace. This is because they play such sound halfcourt basketball and such tenacious defense, that it’s in their interest to slow the pace down. If this game is decided on execution the Sixers will be in trouble.
Force Rondo to score. There’s been a barrage of news that Rajon Rondo had been working hard on his offense so he can contribute more via his own scoring, but the truth of the matter is that Rondo has always been a capable scorer. Rondo prefers to manage the game rather than take it over, so if you can coax him into perimeter shots it means you’ve cut off his preferred options.
Neutralize Boston’s bench. Boston has a good bench, but they tend be feast or famine. If the Sixers can render Jeff Green, Leandro Barbosa, and especially Jason Terry ineffective, Doc will be forced to rely on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce more than he would like. They’re still great players, but at 36 and 35, they don’t want to be playing a 40+ minute game.
Looks like the Sixers are off to a good start. Let's see how they finish.
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