I really like this series because it features two very different teams. Philadelphia is young and are just emerging as an elite squad, while the Boston Celtics are proven winners probably on their last championship run with this current roster.
Game 1 was very close. Both teams played excellent basketball, the only thing I would say about Philadelphia’s game was their lack of fast-break opportunities. They only had 13 fast-break points. They’re much younger, faster and athletic then Boston and should be looking to push at every opportunity that they can. They did a great job getting everyone involved as usual, but Jrue Holliday has to try to get more involved in the offense. He only had 8 points and 4 assists in 37 minutes on the court. He needs to match Rondo’s intensity and be the point guard that Philly needs him to be. Even if he’s not scoring they need a playmaker besides Igoudala to get everybody involved. Their late game breakdown really just shows the 76’ers have a lot that still needs to be learned. They are young and some of these guys have never won a playoff series before. They just need to stay composed and put the rowdy Boston crowd away and stick with their game-plan late in the game. They also might want to re-think about how they guard Kevin Garnett. He scored 29 points in game 1, on 12 for 20 shooting. Most of his points are from pick and rolls with Rondo. The Philly defense wants to stay with Rondo considering how dangerous he is near the hoop but that is leaving Garnett open time after time. He has a jump shot, we all know that. They have to tighten up on him for the future. The Celtics did a great job of sharing the wealth in this game, they played great defense, they exuded confidence and composure in the 4th quarter to come back and win the game but they have to try and get Paul Pierce in better scoring opportunities. He only shot 3-11 from the field for 14 points. His injury is bothering him a little bit, but they need to get him better looks going forward.
Game 2 was another tense finish. And once again, was a great basketball game to watch. Philly came away victorious this time and I think that has to be credited to Doug Collins. They had a late game meltdown in game 1 and whatever Doug said to them this game really helped them out. For a young team like this all they need is confidence and a little voice in their head keeping them composed. Doug was that voice in game 2 and helped them seal the deal in the final seconds of the game. They did a much better job in this game of getting Jrue Holliday involved, who finished with 18 points in this game. The wealth was shared once again as they had 4 players finish in double digits in the scoring department. They also did a much better job defensively in this game. They held Paul Pierce to 7 points and Rondo to 8 points while keeping Garnett to 15. They really locked down defensively and got back to doing what they do best and that’s defending with relentless intensity and passion. For the Boston Celtics I would just look for them to get Paul Pierce more involved. His MCL is probably bothering him at this point, which is why it’s so vital for them to get him into positions to score early so he can gather a rhythm.
Game 3 was a nice change of pace from the first two games that were both won by one point. The Celtics blew Philadelphia out at home. The key in this game was defense. After giving up 33 points in the first quarter the Celtics held the 76’ers to a combined 33 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarter. Thats a true sign of a championship contending team, they knew when to turn up the defense and that was the key for them to win this game. Offensively, everybody was rolling in this game. 5 players were in double figures in the scoring department, while Rondo, Pierce and Garnett all scored 23+ points in this game. Finally, Pierce got in his rhythm and when he’s hot it really spreads the floor for Boston and gives them more opportunities down low. So much attention is directed toward the Truth when he is hot, that other players can really get in a rhythm. I’d also like to mention that Kevin Garnett is playing the best basketball he’s played all season. Luckily, for the Celtics, it’s at the perfect time. If he continues to score at this pace, the Celtics have a very good chance at getting through to the conference finals. For the 76’ers they let up defensively. They played so well defensively in games 1 and 2 and in every game against Chicago but they collapsed here in game 3. They gave up 61 points through the 2nd and 3rd quarters and that was the difference maker. It’s ok to let up defensively if you’re shooting almost perfectly from the field but they weren’t. You can’t expect to score 33 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, give up 61 and expect to have a chance at winning. Another thing i’ve noticed is they aren’t getting out in transition as much as they should. They are so much younger then the Celtics and can easily beat them up the floor, they just have to create more fast-break opportunities for the future.
Looking to the future, the 76’ers need to re-gather their confidence, and compose themselves. They played great until their meltdown in game 3, they have to get back into playing well defensively. If they do that, everything will flow from there on. The Celtics are playing excellent basketball, if they continue to get everyone involved then they can win this series. I think this series comes down to composure and defense. Whichever team can stay locked in defensively and stay composed down the stretch will have the final laugh. I’ll give this series to the Celtics in 7 games.