05/12/12 1:52 pm EST
With the Chicago Bulls now in the 76ers rear view mirror, it’s time to focus on the Eastern Conference semi-final series vs. our arch-rival Boston Celtics. As we all know, the Sixers went an encouraging 2-1 vs. the “Big 3″ & Co. in 2011-12. Included in those two W’s was a 45-point whooping by the Sixers.
However, if you read this site, you are hoops savy enough to realize that Boston has been playing significantly better baksteball since we last saw them back in April — a 103-79 win by the C’s. So you can pretty much throw the regular season results out the window as we prepare for Game 1 tonight.
With the regular season contests nearly useless as a barometer for this series, we thought it would be a solid idea for a couple of the scribes here at Philadunkia to highlight some of the keys to this second round playoff mathc-up as well as provide you the the readers with some predictions for who will move on to the Conference Finals.
Our predictions after the jump.
Folks, I’m having a hard time deciding how to handle this “prediction” piece. Should I be responsible and talk about how the L.O.B is won with a multitude of stars like I’m Stephen A. Smith? Should I be safe and predict the Celtics veterans out work, out wit and out last the Sixers extreme youth? Should I fall on bended knee and hail Doc Rivers as the best coach in this series while under mining Doug Collins to nothing more than a glorified analyst? Should I talk about how the Sixers cannot/will not score nearly enough points to even make a game of this series?
You’ll all get enough of that during the next week so the hell with being responsible. Cheers to being different. Sixers in 7!
The clear advantage the Sixers have against the Celtics is their youth. That advantage was manifested in the first two regular season match-ups in Philadelphia between these two teams. Though, in both of those games, the Celtics were in back to back situations on the road. So, there’s no wonder that looked as if they needed a cane. Yet, when these teams met in Boston, the Sixers were embarrassed and mopped of the floor. The Celtics were motivated at that point, and the Sixers were in the midst of a late season swoon that ultimately cost them the division.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. If the Sixers have a chance, they must win game 1. The Celtics are coming off a tough series against the Hawks, and they could be in recovery mode. The Sixers have to win this series in 6 at home in Philly. Though, I believe the Celtics’ experience will carry them through in a tough series. Celtics in 7.
There are two things here that, to my eye, are working against the Sixers. The first is that the Celtics of this moment—the May 12, 2012 Boston Celtics—are not the same Celtics the 7-6 waxed by 45 points in a pair of March meetings. They’re much, much better. Kevin Garnett has morphed from “maybe washed up” to a renascent, DPOY consideration garnering, jump-shooting assassin; Rajon Rondo averaged 14.2 assists per game in April; Paul Pierce put up 21.6 ppg in the season’s last two months; and the Cs, after suffering a 99-86 loss at the hands of Philadunkia’s home team on March 23, ripped off a 14-5 run to end the season—during which they bested the Heat thrice, throttled the Sixers by 24, and held opponents to under 86 ppg.
So there’s that. There’s also this: my sense is that, in knocking off the Bulls in 6, the Sixers already played and won their NBA finals.
The pick: I see the Celtics winning in 6, maybe 7 if Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday can find a way to generate some (efficient) points against what might be the best defensive unit left standing.
Obviously the C’s are playing much better then the team the 7-6 faced and defeated twice during the regular season. But Boston’s improved level of play (and momentum) is not what has me worried in this series. What has me worried is our 76ers. Specifically I am worried about their bench play, their shooting and the head coach.
The Sixers somehow slipped past a wounded Chicago squad with little help from key reserves Louis Williams and Thad Young. The 76ers couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat vs. Chicago, yet they advanced past the Bulls. The 7-6 also got past the Bulls despite several brain farts from the usually steady coach Collins. They won’t survive these same issues in this series with Boston.
Thad and Louis must play up to their high regular season standards in this series. Each guy must look inside and find their game again. The Sixers also have to shoot the ball much better. Taking the ball to the rim and NOT settling for long jumpers would be a good start here. Finally, coach Collins must remember what got him to this post season — his bench — and use the entire “Night Shift” vs. Boston. Getting Lavoy and “Big Nik” consistent tick vs. the older Boston bigs will be key in this series. If these elements can come together, I really believe the Sixers can pull of an upset in the EC semis.
However, it’s most likely that all of the elements will not magically come together and the C’s will win in 6.