Arbella Game 6 Preview: Celtics at 76ers

Arbella Playoffs

BOSTON – It took the Boston Celtics (7-4) two tries to eliminate the Atlanta Hawks from the 2012 NBA Playoffs. They hope they can cut that number in half when they try to kick the Philadelphia 76ers (6-5) to the curb for the first time at 8 p.m. tonight in the Wells Fargo Center.

The Celtics have not been great at capitalizing on the opportunity to eliminate teams from the playoffs over the past five seasons. Since 2007-08, Boston has played 21 games in which it could have eliminated an opponent from the playoffs and gone just 10-11 in those contests.

Doc Rivers has been on Boston’s sidelines for every one of those 21 games. He understands that his team hasn’t been great in these situations. He also understands that ending Philadelphia’s season tonight will not be a simple task.

“Well it’s not going to be easy,” Rivers said following Game 5. “Listen, this series is hard. They’re a good team. They’re an athletic team. Every minute you think we’re leaking oil, physically. So we’ve got a quick turnaround here and we’re going to have to be ready.”

Thankfully the turnaround isn’t such that requires a back-to-back. Both teams had Tuesday off, a day the Celtics used to watch film and take their short flight to the City of Brotherly Love. Boston has struggled while playing in Philadelphia over the past few seasons, but it has played extremely well in the Wells Fargo Center during this series.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce has scored 24.0 PPG in two games at the Wells Fargo Center during this series.
Drew Hallowell/NBAE/Getty

The Celtics blew the Sixers out in Game 3 by a score of 107-91. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo each scored at least 23 points in that contest to lead Boston to the victory.

Game 5 looked as if it was going to have a similar result. The Celtics jumped out to an 18-point lead in that contest thanks to strong play from Pierce (24 points) and Rondo (15 points, 15 assists). However, Boston’s offense fell apart in the second half and Philadelphia completed an enormous comeback.

“I just told our guys, I said, ‘You know we’re just going to keep fighting. That’s what we do. It ain’t pretty. Just keep grinding it,’ ” Doug Collins told reporters after that game.

That’s exactly what the Celtics must take note of heading into tonight’s Game 6. The Sixers have proven time and time again that they will not quit or go away quietly. Likewise, the C’s have proven the same point. Neither team has been able to win consecutive games in this series through the first five contests.

Boston will be looking to buck that trend tonight. The Celtics finished off the Sixers with ease in Game 5, winning by 16 points, and if they can do the same tonight they’ll be the first team to advance to the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Attack the Glass

The Celtics overcame the odds in Game 5 by winning the contest despite losing the rebounding battle 37-31. It was the first time in this series that the winning team had been outrebounded. Let’s be clear in stating that the possibility of that happening again is highly unlikely.

Boston must attack the glass tonight with much more fury than it did during Monday’s game. Not a single player on the team grabbed more than six rebounds, and Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass were the only Celtics who grabbed more than four.

Winning the rebounding battle requires a team effort, and it will also require Garnett returning to his double-digit rebounding ways.

Active Hands

What was the one thing that stood out to Collins the most after his team was run off the court in Game 5? The fact that his team didn’t take care of the ball.

“You can’t play one-handed against this team,” Collins said. “You can’t make careless, one-handed pass against this team. They’re too good; they’re quick. Their perimeter guys have great anticipation.”

Collins’ team did play carelessly Monday night. The Sixers committed 15 turnovers that led to 18 points for the Celtics. Five of those 15 turnovers took place in the most critical stage of the game in the third quarter.

Philadelphia cannot afford to make lazy mistakes like this tonight if it is going to avoid the end of its season.

Perimeter Defense

When it was announced that Avery Bradley would sit out Game 5 with a pair of sore shoulders, everyone assumed that the floodgates would be opened up for Philadelphia’s guards. After all, Bradley is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league.

The Celtics’ guards had something to say about that. They shut down Philadelphia’s perimeter scorers for the majority of the contest, as Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams combined to score just 27 points on 10-of-26 shooting.

To put it bluntly, if the Sixers’ top-scoring guards shoot like that again tonight, Philadelphia would need a miracle to win the game. Boston shut those players down without Bradley, and there’s a possibility that Bradley will boost the lineup with a return in Game 6. That’s not good news for Philly fans.