Game Preview: 76ers at Celtics

Make your picks now in Celtics 3-Point Play

BOSTON – Two consecutive wins have put the Boston Celtics (2-2) in position to step above the .500 mark for the first time this season. They can do so with a victory over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers (2-2) at 7:30 p.m. tonight in TD Garden.

Boston dropped its first two games of the season but quickly rebounded with back-to-back wins over the Washington Wizards. Neither victory arrived in dominant fashion, but they were victories nonetheless.

“Well, we won the game, and right now that’s the type of team we are,” Doc Rivers said after Wednesday’s win. “We’re not playing great. It’s good to win a game like that. We’ve won two like that.”

Now that the Celtics have discovered a way to win games in spite of poor play, the next step of their evolution is to win those games while playing well. Use of the term ‘well,’ in this case, simply means playing harder and more consistently. Rivers couldn’t care less about if the ball goes in the basket or not, because he knows that will eventually happen.

“We’ve got to get more guys that play harder, better,” the Celtics’ coach said. “I don’t care about ‘well,’ you know? I don’t care if we play ‘well’ or not, because that’s just human. If you can make shots or not, it happens, but we just have to play with a better focus and we’ve got to run our schemes better.”

Those factors have gotten incrementally better with each game this season and the plan is for that trend to continue tonight against Philadelphia.

The Sixers are similar to the Celtics in more way than one. They’re tied with Boston in the Atlantic Division standings and are also coming off of an underwhelming win Wednesday night. They defeated the Hornets by 15 points, and while that’s great, they scored only scored 77 points in the contest.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce must be excited to be taking on the Sixers tonight without Andre Iguodala in the building.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Not a single Philadelphia player scored more than 14 points in the victory and the team shot just 41.7 percent from the floor. Things were even uglier from downtown, where the Sixers shot 4-of-22 (18.1 percent) on 3s.

Doug Collins can’t be excited about that performance but he’s likely in the same boat as Rivers. Collins’ team got the win, and that’s what really matters.

This is what you’d expect out of two teams that underwent drastic makeovers this summer. The Celtics and Sixers are going through growing pains, and both teams are just trying to stay afloat until they hit their stride.

Paul Pierce Party

He may not have extended any invitations, but all of us are invited. Paul Pierce must be ready to throw a party now that he can take on the 76ers and not have to deal with Andre Iguodala.

Iguoala is an all-world defender who can shut down opposing small forwards. He didn’t necessarily shut down Pierce in the past, but he sure as heck made it more difficult for Pierce to get in a rhythm.

Tonight, Pierce will finally play a game against Philadelphia and not have to deal with Iguodala’s harassment. Instead, he’ll likely have Evan Turner defending him. Turner is a strong defender, but he’s sure no Iguodala. Keep an eye out for a big night from Pierce, especially coming off of a 2-for-12 shooting night on Wednesday.

Effective Guards

We all know that Rajon Rondo is going to be effective tonight – he’s basically effective every night he takes the court. What the Celtics need is for the rest of their guard rotation to be effective, too, in order to trim down Rondo’s minutes.

Jason Terry is coming off of a season-best 16-point performance Wednesday night against the Wizards. He played well, but Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa did not. That duo combined for just two points, one rebound and two assists in more than 30 minutes of play.

Lee was brought into Boston to be a primary piece of the rotation. When he, Terry and Barbosa play well, it allows Rivers to give Rondo some well deserved rest.

Defend the 3-point Line

Philadelphia attempted 22–pointers during its win Wednesday night but made only four of them. That’s not good, and neither is the team’s 31.4 shooting percentage from downtown on the season.

The Celtics have been known over the years as a shut-down team when it comes to 3-point shooting. Opponents simply haven’t been able to make 3s against them at a high rate. This season, however, opponents are making 38.6 percent of their 3s against Boston.

With one team struggling to make 3s and the other struggling to defend them, you’d figure that one side has to give tonight. The Celtics should ensure that their side comes out on top if they have tight defensive rotations and close out strong on the 3-point line.