After the disappointment that was Game 1, where the Sixers outperformed the much more experienced Celtic squad for the bulk of the game in Boston, but ultimately still came up short, many expected the young team to come out shattered and shaken in Game 2, and all but give the series to the guys in green. Instead they did the exact opposite. They overcame a very slow start, battled Boston to the wire in a hotly contested game and answered Coach Collins’ plea for poise while knotting the series up at one and bringing home court advantage back to the City of Brotherly Love.
Game 3 will serve as a swing game, as whoever comes out on top will certainly snatch the momentum in this series. The first two games demonstrated that the Sixers can not only hang with Boston and its barrage of big names, but that they can beat them as well.
In order for the Sixers to be successful in Game 3, there are a couple keys they must focus on.
A Sixer win in Game 3 starts with limiting the impact of the Celts’ do-it-all point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo is a stat-stuffer, and the Celtics are at their best when Rondo is pushing the pace, penetrating, and getting everyone else on the court involved. While the Sixers won’t be able to completely stifle the all-star’s attack, getting back on defense after a made basket and limiting the amount of open looks other Celtics get as a recipient of a Rondo pass will work to cripple the Celtics attack. Too often in the first two games Rondo would push the ball into the front-court before the Sixers defense was set, allowing for too many open likes for players like Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, and of course Ray Allen. The Celtics build momentum off of such shots, as a couple in a row could completely alter the course of the game. Sixer defenders need to stay at home on shooters as much as possible, while Jrue and E.T. need to limit Rondo’s penetration and force him to take shots himself, the one glaring weakness in his game.
The next key is for Sixers’ all-star Andre Iguodala to continue to limit Paul Pierce’s point production. Pierce, the Celtics offensive anchor for the past decade plus, was held to a total of 21 points in the first two games, and Iguodala limiting his impact has been invaluable to the Sixers. Pierce, one of the League’s best wing scorers can singlehandedly keep the Celtics in a game, as a couple straight Pierce pull-ups often spell disaster for the opposition. Dre has done an outstanding job of keeping Pierce in check, and thus not allowing the Celtics to rally around his scoring as they often do. Although an extremely difficult task, if Iguodala can continue to keep Pierce in check, the Sixers have a great shot at winning Game 3, and the series itself.
Lastly, it will be up to the backup bigs, Thad Young and Lavoy Allen to neutralize Kevin Garnett. KG has turned the clock back this postseason and is playing at a level reminiscent of a younger, hungrier Garnett. His production was pivotal for the Celtics success in Game 1, as it became evident that Elton Brand struggles with Garnett’s length. Game 2 saw much more of Young and Allen sticking KG, and it seemed that their combined youth and size caused him to struggle more than he did in the first game. If the duo can continue to limit his impact on the offensive end than it could certainly be a long night for the Celtics.
Offensively, the Sixers need to continue to drive and dish, as both Holiday and Turner need to assert themselves early. If they can limit the amount of contested jumpers they take, which was too high in the first two games, and continue to move the ball around, the Sixers should have a successful offensive strategy.
The importance of Game 3 can’t be understated for this series. The Sixers (and the Celtics) know that the 7-6 could be up 2-0 right now, so expect Philadunkia’s team to come out hungry in front of their home crowd, jump on the C’s early and crush Boston’s competitive spirit. The Sixers were undefeated at home in the Chicago series, and despite the Celtics experience, expect another win in the Wells Fargo Center tonight.