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Game Preview: Philadelphia 76ers @ Boston Celtics

December 8th, 2012 at 6:31 PM
By David Donnella

Run it back!

Apparently the Sixers and the Celtics had so much fun in their overtime game last night they’re doing it all over again tonight. Only this time, it’s in Boston.

Coming off the heels of an Evan Turner game winner, the Sixers are hoping to take the season series with a win over Boston tonight. A win would also put the Sixers a half game over the Brooklyn Nets in the Atlantic Division.

The Sixers won last night despite almost universally bad shooting, 37.4% as a team. They pulled it off because they grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and stole the ball 12 times (the Celtics had 18 total turnovers in the game). Those two combined allowed the Sixers to attempt 99 field goals in four quarters plus overtime–18 more shots than the Celtics.

Last night’s win seems all the more incredible when you consider Rajon Rondo’s historic stat line of 16 points, 13 rebounds, 14 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he joined Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as the only players to have accomplished such a feat. Perhaps even more remarkably, last night was just the second time that the Celtics have lost when Rondo recorded a triple double.  

Anyway, with such a dramatic game less than 24 hours ago, expect both teams to come out tonight hungry for more. Instinctually, you would think that both teams would be burned out, especially having to travel. But historically, the effects of overtime games don’t really show themselves until the game after the next one. Meanwhile, you’ve got Boston looking to avenge a close one and Philly looking to make an emphatic statement about their place in the Atlantic Division.

My points from last night’s game still apply. The Sixers are going to need to create a distinct possession advantage to win. Here are some other thoughts about tonight’s game.

Can Jrue have more impact offensively? Despite the monster stat line, Jrue actually did a pretty good job guarding Rondo. He didn’t have a particularly great offensive game, though. Between Courtney Lee and Rondo, Boston is one of the few teams whose defenders can bother Jrue with consistent length and athleticism from the guard position. If Jrue can figure out a way to get to the line (he only attempted two free throws last night) he can make this game much easier on the Sixers.

Are we in a new era for Evan Turner? ET had a bit of a clunker in Chicago, but overall he’s been playing great. He also plays with a fearlessness and vocalism that makes me think he’s starting to emerge as a real leader on this team. Sure, he took a lot of shots last night, but it’s also clear that Evan Turner gets up for big games. If he has a big game tonight, I’ll consider it confirmation of my gut feeling that Evan Turner is heading towards a good place.

Will either team miss that many threes again? Last night the Sixers went 2-11 from deep. The Celtics went 6-22 including 1-8 by Paul Pierce and 1-7 by Jason Terry. If either of those guys had had an average shooting night this game would not have been close. Similarly, if Jason Richardson had made even one of his five threes, the Sixers would have won in regulation. Was all this poor shooting the result of good defense or was it just a weird night? I lean more towards the latter because some of those looks were good.

More important than any of that, though, I hope Doug Collins keeps it in the back of his mind how close that game was to being lost. Doc Rivers drew up a beautiful handoff play that created a wide open look for Rondo. Luckily for the Sixers, he slipped. Still, the Celtics have some of the best plays for closing out games so the Sixers do not want to be in another tight game tonight.

Tipoff is at 7:30pm. No national broadcast for tonight’s game.

Tags: Basketball, Boston, Celtics, NBA, Philadelphia, Philadelphia 76ers, Sixers

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