Game Preview: Celtics at 76ers (preseason)

BOSTON – Two familiar foes with unfamiliar rosters will face off against each other at 7 p.m. tonight in Philadelphia. The Boston Celtics (1-2) and the Philadelphia 76ers (1-1), who collided in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season, will meet for the first time in 2012-13.

Each team’s roster looks very different than the ones that played seven playoff games against each other in May. There is a strong possibility that both teams will feature two new starters tonight as opposed to the lineups that were showcased in the spring.

Kevin Garnett

Jason Terry has started at shooting guard for the Celtics for two consecutive games.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

The Celtics have been experimenting with rosters throughout the preseason. Jason Terry and Courtney Lee have each started at shooting guard and Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger have split the starting time at power forward. Doc Rivers continues to search for the most efficient combination of players to surround entrenched starters Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Terry and Bass got the starting nod prior to Saturday’s 98-95 overtime loss to the New York Knicks. Terry logged nine points, three rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action, while Bass finished with five points and three rebounds in just less than 19 minutes of playing time.

Rivers was assessing the lineup throughout the first quarter. He liked what he saw at one end, but did not like what he saw at the other end.

“I thought we started off slow defensively, and our offensive rebounding with the guards killed us,” Rivers said. “But having said that, we still had a lead after the first quarter, and that’s a great sign. When you struggle defensively, when you struggle on the glass, and you lead, that tells you there’ll be certain nights when your offense can bail you out.”

The C’s don’t want that to become a trend, but it’s a positive aspect that they can pull from the loss. Rivers will have to decide tonight if he will use the same starting lineup or continue experimenting with changes at shooting guard and power forward.

On the other side of the court tonight will be the Sixers, who were last season’s Cinderella team. The franchise took a major leap this summer by trading away its face of the franchise, Andre Iguodala, for a new face of the franchise in Andrew Bynum. Bynum has not played in the preseason due to a bone bruise in his right knee and will not play in tonight’s game.

Philadelphia’s returning starters are Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes. The two players who flanked them in the starting lineup during Saturday’s 108-105 overtime loss to Brooklyn were Kwame Brown and Royal Ivey. That fivesome hung tight with the Nets in the first quarter, but Brooklyn dominated the majority of the game and led by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter.

As with most preseasons, the head coaches of both of these franchises are still figuring out their team. Each team’s starting lineup was unable to grab a win Saturday night, but both will have an opportunity to bounce back when they square off tonight.

Playing Time

Boston is in the midst of a preseason stretch that includes six games in nine nights. That’s why Rivers is spreading the wealth when it comes to playing time. Darko Milicic played only seven minutes on Saturday, and Garnett and Bass each logged less than 20 minutes of action. Rivers is likely going to stagger his players’ minutes throughout this nine-day stretch, so look out for some players to play a lot of minutes tonight and others to rest in preparation tomorrow night’s game against Brooklyn.

The same can be said for Philadelphia. One of their major offseason acquisitions, Jason Richardson, did not play Saturday night despite the face that he is not injured. The same can be said for sharpshooter Dorell Wright. Both of those players, along with rookie Arnett Moultrie, who played only 11 minutes on Saturday, should get plenty of run tonight.

Overtime Losses

Both teams are coming off of overtime losses Saturday night, but those losses arrived in very different fashion.

The Celtics led the Knicks for the majority of their meeting in Hartford, Conn. In fact, five of Boston’s top nine players finished with a positive plus/minus rating in the game and the C’s led by as many as 12 points in the second half. The game went to overtime only because Rivers’ rookies couldn’t hold onto the lead.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, was dominated for the majority of its game on Saturday. Three of Brooklyn’s starters finished with a plus/minus rating of at least plus-17, an indication that Philadelphia’s top players simply couldn’t keep up. The only reason the game went to overtime is because the end of the Nets’ bench played terribly together.

Turnovers

One of the main areas that the Celtics need to clean up is their turnover rate. They are coughing the ball up 19.33 times per game through three preaseason games. That’s nearly five turnovers more than their average from last season, which was 14.8 turnovers per game.

Boston is younger and much more athletic this season, which will surely help with transition defense, but it doesn’t want to depend on those attributes. It wants to dominate the game by setting up its half court defense. The only way to do that is by limiting turnovers. You can bet that Rivers will make that fact a priority during his pregame speech tonight.