With Thursday’s win, the Celtics are one step closer to banner 18. Boston beat Atlanta in six games (which I predicted) and now face the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The 76ers knocked off the #1 seed Chicago Bulls, who were without last year’s MVP Derrick Rose for most of the series, in the 1st round. This second round match-up seems to favor the Celtics, especially when you consider that Boston has homecourt advantage. They went 3-0 at the TD Garden against the Hawks in the opening round.
I’m not sure what poses a bigger threat for the Celtics in the next round, the 76ers or the C’s injuries. Avery Bradley (shoulder), Paul Pierce (knee), and Ray Allen (ankle), are all injured and won’t be at 100% when game 1 starts tonight. Ray Allen has said his ankle feels like it did a couple of weeks ago, which isn’t a good sign because he couldn’t play then. Pierce wasn’t his normal self Thursday night due to a MCL injury and only having one day off in between games won’t help him heal. Coach Doc Rivers has voiced his concerns over his team’s injuries.
This series will be a battle of youth vs. veterans. The 76ers are a young and upcoming team that spent a portion of the year on top of the Atlantic Division. 4 of their 5 starters are under the age of 30. They use their youth to be very active on the defensive end of the court. They held the Bulls to just 82 points or less in 4 of the 6 games they played in the 1st round. Philadelphia tends to not shoot a high percentage so they compensate for that by trying to force the opposition into bad shots.
In this series, the only thing that can beat the Celtics, in my opinion, is themselves, due to injury. They are the better team and I think their quality of play will increase as they go deeper into the playoffs. I said the Celtics would win their last series in six games and I’ll predict that same outcome again. This should be a defensive minded series and I think that sets up well for the C’s. Game 1 is tonight at 8:00.