Update: Ray Allen will not play in this game due to suspension and Big Baby is questionable to suit up with a stomach flu according to the Celtics Twitter account
Boston at Philadelphia
8:00pm CSN, TNT
Celtics: 60-20 (26-14 on road);
Off. Efficiency 110.4 (7th);
Def. Efficiency 102.1 (1st)
Sixers: 41-37 (24-16 at home);
Off. Efficiency 107.7 (20th);
Def. Efficiency 107.6 (11th)
Season Series: Final of 4 meetings.
Boston leads series 3-0
November 28th: PHI 78 BOS 102
December 23rd: BOS 91 PHI 110
February 3rd: BOS 100 PHI 99
Celtics: OUT: Brian Scalabrine (concussions) Kevin Garnett (knee) QUESTIONABLE: Leon Powe (knee)
Sixers: OUT: Elton Brand (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE: PF Thaddeus Young (ankle)
Do the Celtics want to play the Sixers in the 1st round? The Green will have a major say in that question tonight as they head down to Philly for their final road contest of the season. This game was likely to have some bearing on the seeding at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but things got a heck of a lot clearer after Chicago came out of Detroit with a road win, catapulting the Bulls ahead of the Sixers into the 6th seed for the time being.
Zach Lowe broke down all the potential scenarios for these final couple days regarding the potential final rankings for Philly and Chicago. I’ll put it out there simply right here though. If the Celts beat this Sixer team tonight, it’s extremely likely we will see them as a first round opponent come this Saturday. All it would take for this to come true, is for the Bulls to win tomorrow night against Toronto, which there is a high likelihood of given how well the Bulls have played at home recently (28-12).
Now Doc Rivers and his staff is probably looking at these same scenarios in trying to decide how he wants to coach this game. At this point, the contention amongst most C’s fans is that the Sixers would be a better matchup for Boston given how athletic the Bulls are and how hot they have been lately, winning 5 in a row and 8 of their last 10.
The Sixers meanwhile have been fading these past few weeks. They have lost five in a row, thanks to a tough road trip and the loss of starting PF Thaddeus Young to a sprained ankle. It’s possible Young could return tonight which would give Tony DiLeo’s squad a major boost as they have sorely missed Young’s offense and athleticism during their losing streak.
Philly will be motivated in this game tonight, as they know they will likely need to sweep these final 2 games to ensure the 6th seed for a 1st round date with a banged up and reeling Orlando team. The road does not get any easier for this team tomorrow night though with a road jaunt in Cleveland looming.
The Cavs clinched home court advantage throughout the playoffs last night after winning in Indiana, so technically they have nothing to play for. However that 40-1 home record is still waiting for them, so its likely they will be playing to win to ensure they see their names in the record books. Either way, winning both of these games will be a tall order to fill.
From a Celtics perspective, it will be interesting to see how Doc Rivers approaches this game. My guess is that we will see around 30 minutes from most of the starters with an honest effort from the C’s to win this game. I have no idea what the Celtics scouting reports look like, but my contention would be the coaching staff would rather face Philly in the 1st round too, so they will likely be happy to ensure that possibility tonight, but not at the expense of overworking the starting unit.
The team also will likely be looking to get the sour taste out of it’s mouth after Sunday’s drubbing so I expect them to come out hungry for a win to set the tone for a 1st round series against this struggling team. The last thing you want to give Philly right now is any kind of confidence to build on going into the playoffs.
One final subplot to this situation is to possible return of Leon Powe tonight to the lineup. Powe was scheduled to miss the rest of the regular season with his sprained knee, so it’s a great sign to get him back early amidst the pushed back returns of you know who. Look for Leon to go 15-20 minutes tonight to try to start to get his rhythm and legs back. With or without KG, Powe will play a huge part in this team’s playoff hopes so here’s hoping he returns to form quickly and contribute like he did before he went down in Chicago a month back.