Arbella Game 2 Preview: 76ers at Celtics
BOSTON – Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup between the Boston Celtics (5-2) and the Philadelphia 76ers (4-3) will take place at 7 p.m. tonight in TD Garden. Boston, which won Game 1 Saturday night, will look to advance its home record in the playoffs to 5-0.
The Celtics took Philadelphia down by a score of 92-91 Saturday night in the Garden in front of a raucous crowd. Boston came back from as many as 13 points down, including a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, to steal the series-opening win.
“Every time we’d take the lead they’d make a run, but we just gathered ourselves, gathered ourselves, kept grinding, kept grinding,” Paul Pierce said after the game. “We started rebounding the ball a lot better and the defense really settled in and that’s why we took the lead and overcame.”
Getting over that hump Saturday night was monumental for the Celtics. They have put themselves in a great spot in this series, as they enter tonight’s game with an opportunity to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. That’s a much more favorable position than they would be in had they lost. Attempting to avoid an 0-2 hole on your home floor is almost a must-win situation.
While Boston is sitting pretty after its series-opening victory, Philadelphia is on the other end of the spectrum. Its goal of winning one of the first two games of the series is still alive, but losing in the fashion that it did in Game 1 could be demoralizing for a young team like the Sixers.
Doug Collins’ team is comprised of 14 players whose average age is about 25 years old. These youngsters are making just their second postseason run together and continue to learn by the day. Despite those facts, Collins is confident that his team will display plenty of confidence when it returns to the court for Game 2 tonight.
“If you followed our team all year, that’s sort of who we are – we’re not going to drop our heads. We don’t do that,” Collins said shortly after Game 1. “We’ll live to come back and we’ll fight just as hard in Game 2.”
If the 76ers deliver on that promise, Boston will need a shot in the arm prior to tip-off. Doc Rivers acknowledged after Saturday’s game that Philadelphia came out swinging and had the Celtics on their heels. The C’s struggled to 30 percent shooting in the first quarter, putting themselves in a double-digit deficit that they had to fight back from all night long.
Despite leading the Sixers for a total of just 5 minutes and 22 seconds of playing time in Game 1, the Celts somehow snagged a big win at home. They’ll try to do the same thing tonight, but hopefully in a much easier fashion.
Philly’s Defense on KG
Of all of the comments Collins made following Game 1, the most surprising one indicated that he and his coaching staff have decided to let Kevin Garnett beat them rather than Boston’s perimeter players.
“We’re not going to run out at him,” Collins said of Garnett. “We’re going to obviously to try and get a hand in his face, but then all of a sudden you start running around and doing all that, now you free up Paul Pierce and all these other guys. I mean, you have to pick your poison.”
Garnett has definitely been poison for opponents. He dropped 29 points in Game 1 to follow up a 28-point performance in Game 6 against Atlanta. Garnett is locked in right now.
We might see a radical defensive change for the 76ers tonight despite what Collins insinuated with the quote above. With Pierce, Ray Allen and Avery Bradley all hobbled, it might be a wise decision to let them be the poison rather than Garnett.
Which leads us to...
Everyone knew that the C’s headed into Game 1 with a long list of ailments, most notably to Pierce (knee sprain) and Allen (sore ankle). Although Pierce nailed a big jumper late in the game, he shot just 3-for-11 and had no lift on his shot. Meanwhile, Allen scored 12 points off of the bench but seemed to aggravate his injury on several occasions.
“I thought 10 different times he was hurt again,” Rivers said of Allen. “He hit the floor four or five times.”
Boston did not practice on Sunday to give its ailing bodies some time to heal up. The team was able to escape Game 1 despite those injuries resulting in subpar performances. Overcoming those odds in two consecutive games is quite a challenge. That’s why the Celtics need Pierce and Allen to shoot the ball more efficiently this time around.
Contest Perimeter Shots
Rivers calls Lou Williams a “shot-maker” and Jrue Holiday has been on fire in the playoffs. That guard combo is a big reason why the Sixers are where they are today. However, Williams and Holiday struggled mightily in Game 1, combining to shoot just 7-for-20 from the field.
To put it simply, Philadelphia is not going to win this series with those two players shooting so poorly. There are other players on the 76ers’ roster who can put the ball through the basket, but this combo, and Williams in particular, are relied on heavily to lead the team’s shooting efforts.
Philadelphia will be looking to get these players back on track, but Boston will be looking to keep them on ice. The C’s contested Philly’s shots very well in Game 1, and that’s all you can ask for. After that, you just hope that the ball doesn’t go in... and it didn’t Saturday night.