Philadelphia at Boston
Boston: 107.7 points/100 possessions (7th)
Philadelphia: 101.8 points/100 possessions (19th)
Boston: 97 points allowed/100 possessions (1st)
Philadelphia: 102 points allowed/100 possessions (10th)
Probable Sixers’ starters: Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes.
View from opposing bench: Philadunkia
Thumbnail: From an entertainment standpoint, the Sixers gave the Celtics one of their best games of the season a few weeks ago, with the Celtics winning 102-101 on that Rajon Rondo-Kevin Garnett alley-oop. You know Doc Rivers will be looking for a more complete performance from the C’s in tonight’s rematch, as the Celtics can extend their winning streak to 14 games. Jermaine O’Neal is 50/50 to play tonight after missing 18 games with a knee injury.
As for the Sixers, the inconsistency of this team must really be frustrating for Doug Collins. After starting the season 3-13, Philadelphia is actually 8-4 over their last 12 games. But after an impressive win in Orlando on Saturday, the Sixers lost by 45 last night in Chicago.
WHAT THE SIXERS DO WELL:
Defend: Philadelphia ranks 5th in opponents’ eFG% at 47%. And they’re tied for 3rd in opponents’ three-point shooting percentage at 33%. That makes sense. The Sixers have an abundance of athletic guards/small forwards who can close out on the perimeter. Of course, the Celtics are the best shooting team in the league and shot 7-12 from three-point range in their last matchup. So we’ll see what gives tonight.
WHAT THE SIXERS DO POORLY:
Get to the free-throw line: With all that speed and athleticism, you would think the Sixers would be near the top of the league in free throw attempts. Not the case. Philadelphia only takes about 23 free throws a game, good for 24th in the NBA.
PLAYERS WHO MAKE ME WORRY:
Lou Williams or Holiday: Statistically, neither is really having a great season, but at least one of them will play well in any particular game. Holiday has struggled mightily over the past few games. Williams dropped 24 in the Sixers’ victory over the Magic, but is still shooting 36% from the field for the season. However, Philadelphia is 3rd in the league in fast-break points at 17 per game, and it all starts with these guys. With Rondo unable to play, slowing them down needs to be the priority for Nate Robinson tonight. It’s possible (but not likely) we might even see some relevant minutes for Avery Bradley as a defensive stopper.
PLAYERS WHO DON”T MAKE ME WORRY:
I wrote in the last Sixers’ preview how I think Iguodala is completely overrated, so I won’t get into that again. (Honestly, is there any doubt his stat line tonight won’t read something like 17 points on 7-15 shooting?).
But in addition to Iggy, the Sixers’ frontcourt shouldn’t be much of a concern, either. Hawes and Brand have played well at times this season, but the Sixers really have no depth when it comes to their “bigs.” If Jermaine is ready to go, this could be a good night for his return.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE FROM THE CELTICS TONIGHT:
We know the Sixers like to run, and the Celtics ran with them in their last meeting (Philadelphia outscored the C’s 22-20 on fast-break points). But Rondo played 47 minutes and dished out 14 assists in that game, and he’s out tonight. At the Garden, let’s see if the Celtics can control the tempo, slow the game down, and take care of business.
I’ll also be interested in watching Paul Pierce, who’s coming off that triple-double. We saw how well he handled the offense on Sunday; I wonder if that’s going to be a part of the game plan tonight.
Celtics 99, Sixers 91.