Saturday, May 12, 2012

76ers finish off Bulls, look forward to Boston

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images - Edit by: Payton Wales)

Philadelphia closed out the Chicago Bulls on their home court in game six.  In a way many thought would be impossible.  Down one point while sending Chicago's Omer Asik to the free throw line for two.  He missed both and Andre Iguodala got fouled on the other end for a chance to win the game if he makes both free throws.  He made both.

The 76ers were able to steal game two in Chicago the game after the Rose injury which took the life out of their team.  They were able to hold off the Bulls in the two games in Philadelphia, mostly due to poor offensive execution by the Bulls.  Philadelphia really turned up their effort in this series after winning game two.  They started to believe they would win the series.  Well, they did win the series.

The one weakness with the 76ers has been their play on the road, outside of game two in Chicago.  Jrue Holiday turned into an aggressive point guard after Rose went down.  He feasted on the opportunity to play against lesser talent and with that the 76ers offensive pace turned it up.

Chicago was able to win game 5 at home pretty convincingly with Phialdelphia not even scoring 70 points in this.  Going back to the original point, the 76ers offense can look awful during stretches as they have no inside presence.  They need their wing defenders to attack, which is what Evan Turner did in the Bulls series.

And in game six, well you know what happened.  Philadelphia was able to fight and advance in the playoffs to play against the very experienced and accomplished Boston Celtics.

Series verses Boston

The Celtics open up their second round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers by dodging the Chicago Bulls bullet thanks to Derrick Rose’s injury.  Looking at this match up has a lot of Celtics fans salivating at the mouth.  Don’t be so quick to skip over this series looking at the potential Eastern Conference Finals opponent, at least no so fast.

Are the fans forgetting about the season series between the Celtics and 76ers?   In the first game on March 7th, when the Celtics came in with a 20-17 record after turning things around from the start of the season, the 76ers put Celtics fans back to reality that this was going to be one long and tough road to the playoffs.  Philadelphia ran away with a 103-71 victory at home by outrebounding the Celtics 54-35.  More impressive was the way Philadelphia closed out defensively.  There is no doubt that the 76ers are younger and will have more energy, even younger than the Hawks.

The second game during the lockout-shortened season resulted in another loss by the Celtics to the 76ers.  The Celtics returned to Philadelphia 16 days later with a 25-21 record, only to be humbled once again 99-86 led by Philadelphia’s rebounding advantage 46-35.  The pace of the game was in Philadelphia’s favor too as they took 92 shots compared to Boston’s 74.   Ray Allen didn’t play in this game and Pietrus was hospitalized in this one.  It was a tough third quarter where the 76ers took advantage by outscoring Boston by 20 in that quarter.

The last game in the regular season was the return of Ray Allen, but coming off the bench because Avery Bradley has earned every right to start.  Philadelphia came into Boston when they were in a slide; they lost their swagger during the end of the season.  Boston took advantage, although losing the rebounding battle 39-37; they dominated defensively only allowing 38% shooting and 18% from three.  Boston ran away with this one 103-79 to give a little pay back to the 76ers. 

I know most fans will stick to this last game because it was the most recent, has Boston in their playoff form and was in Boston, since the Celtics have home court.  All these points are valid, but don’t overlook the 76ers here.  They have the personal and style that can be a nightmare for the, um, older team. (Trying not to piss off Garnett since he reads this website.)

Even with the slide at the end of the season, the 76ers were ranked fifth in point differential right behind Chicago, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami, Boston is ranked 11th.

The main reason why I believe this series will end up going 6 or more games is the fact that Philadelphia has tough wing defenders.  No doubt Jrue Holiday will have his hands full trying to stop the playoffs MVP (so far), Rajon Rondo.  I also see Paul Pierce struggling in this series.  We know he is banged up and will be matched against Andre Iguodala (DPOY candidate) and Evan Turner.  Both are younger and physical players, which will require everything Paul Pierce has. 
Brandon Bass will have another disappointing playoff series here matching up against the veteran, Elton Brand.  With the Celtics running their small ball, I suspect Collins to continue running the Brand and Spencer Hawes line up, which will require another superhuman series from the big ticket. 

The X factors and reason why I think the Celtics will come out of this series is Rajon Rondo (duh) and the bench.  The Celtics bench, led by Ray Allen, will need to be able to put some points up.  This series will be a low scoring contest (first to 100 wins!), which is why the Celtics bench will need guys to step up.  Whether that is Keyon Dooling, Mickael Pietrus, Ray Allen or even Ryan Hollins, a couple of these guys will have to show up on any given night.

This series will not be easy, so before you start looking ahead to Miami (or Indiana), you should really take the 8th seed Philadelphia 76ers seriously.


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