Home Game! National TV! Divisional Rival!
The Philadelphia 76ers(10-8) play host to the Boston Celtics(10-8) tonight in the first game of a home-and-home series. Both teams come in to tonight’s game with the same record, so if one team can manage to sweep tonight and tomorrow’s games, they can create some daylight in the tight middle of the Atlantic Division.
The Sixers and Celtics already played in early November, with the Sixers winning 106-100. That means if the Sixers can win these next two games they’ll take the season series, which could be very important as it seems like four teams from the Atlantic Division could be jockeying for playoff spots and seeds by the end of the season.
The Celtics, usually known for their defense, are having an up and down season marred by inconsistent offense and unimposing defense. Offensively, they struggle to score when Rajon Rondo leaves the floor. Defensively, they can’t stop anyone when KG rests.
Of course, we’ve seen this all before. It seems like there’s a yearly tradition where we accuse the Celtics of being too old and stagnant, only for them to turn on a switch at the end of the season and wind up in the conference finals.
But this time it seems different. The Celtics teams of yore usually showed flashes of that late season form when it mattered(read: games against rivals or nationally televised games), and that hasn’t been the case this year. Paul Pierce seems to be struggling to create, and the new pieces just aren’t contributing the way they were expected to. Of course, the Celtics are probably better off having underperforming talent rather than overachieving bums, but veterans like Jason Terry and Courtney Lee should be able to bring more consistency than they have thus far.
The Celtics can be bothered by size, which the Sixers don’t have, and athleticism, which the Sixers do. Here’re some other things they can do to win this:
Make this a high possession game. Offensively, the Celtics thrive on slowing down the pace and forcing other teams to be as efficient as they are. The Sixers can neutralize this by flying out on the break and trying to force turnovers. High possession games usually favor the more athletic team, which in this case is the Sixers.
Force Rondo to score. I’m pretty sure this was a key last time I wrote about these two teams, and it hasn’t changed. Rondo is a capable but reluctant scorer. The rest of his teammates rely on him to create good shots for them. If Rondo isn’t providing easy opportunities for them they’ll struggle to score.
Who’s gonna rebound? Both teams are slightly undersized, so rebounding could make a big difference in the game. For the Sixers especially, a few offensive rebounds and a few good defensive rebounds that lead to fast breaks could turn just enough possessions in the Sixers favor to affect the outcome of the game.
If all else fails, the Sixers should just trot out a Kris Humphries lookalike and use him as a decoy. Game starts at 7pm on CSN or ESPN.
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