Tonight the Boston Celtics take on the struggling Philadelphia 76ers who have fallen off the map in the last few months. A team that was just one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago, now find themselves on the verge of a collapse as they are seven games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for eighth, and are 2-8 in their last 10 games. Andrew Bynum hasn’t played and probably won’t play this season which has completely dampened Philadelphia’s spirits this year. The loss of key players Andre Igoudala and Lou Williams certainly didn’t help, and instead of being a playoff contender this season, they’ve taken a few steps back in the team’s development. But aside from all that, there is a game tonight, and with the 76ers struggling, the Celtics can’t take this team lightly.
The Celtics have been known to play down to their competition over the last few years, and with the race for higher playoff seeds heating up, they can’t afford to let a winnable game slip away. The 76ers are still a dangerous team despite not having their All-Star center playing this season. Players like Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, and Nick Young all can make life miserable for Boston if they don’t play good defense. Spencer Hawes has wreaked havoc in the past against the Celtics because his length and height allows him to grab rebounds over the smaller Celtics power forwards.
Boston has not won a regular season in Philadelphia since the 2010-2011 season. So what must the Celtics do to end that streak of losses?
They have to push the offensive tempo like they’ve done since Rajon Rondo’s season ended. Boston has at times taken their foot off the gas pedal in games, and without a true point guard on the floor who can set up plays in the backcourt, it would be a huge mistake on their part if they did that tonight. The Celtics can outrun and beat any opponent with the fast-break offense, even younger teams like the 76ers have a hard time keeping up with Boston when they run.
The Celtics also have to play tight defense on Philadelphia’s guards. Jrue Holiday and Nick Young can single-handedly win the game tonight, so Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee will have to keep up with those two, which they most likely will. The 76ers are not a good three point shooting team only hitting 35% of their perimeter shots, so Boston must be prepared for Philadelphia to take the ball to the hoop and draw fouls.
Lastly, tonight is one of those games that Boston must dominate early. Being the first game of a back-to-back, having the starters and key players resting as much as possible tonight would be a plus as the Celtics travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers tomorrow night. Tonight’s game is another opportunity for Jeff Green to take over since Philadelphia doesn’t have a forward who can match Green’s length and athleticism.
The Celtics are a game and a half behind the Atlanta Hawks for 6th in the standings, and two games behind both the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets. Even though tonight isn’t against an elite team, it’s no less important than if they played a championship contender. Tonight is definitely a winnable game, and it would be a shame if Boston doesn’t capitalize against a subpar team.
— gary washburn (@GwashNBAGlobe) March 5, 2013