The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the youngest teams in the NBA. They don’t have a game-changing superstar and now trail the Boston Celtics 2-1 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinals. This might just be a recipe for disaster.
The eighth-seeded Sixers squeaked into the playoffs at the end of the year, despite the fact that Philadelphia led the division for a good chunk of the season. In the first round they were matched up against a Chicago Bulls team that should have destroyed them, but thanks to injuries the Sixers finished off the Bulls in six games. But even that wasn’t an easy task.
With the series win it was on to the next round and a new opponent; the divison-rival Celtics, renewing one of the greatest rivalries in the NBA.
Boston is an old team with three shoo-ins for the Hall of Fame in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but the “Boston Three Party” isn’t what it used to be, especially due to the shortened season. The Celtics were overlooked coming into the postseason as all the hype was around the Miami Heat and the Bulls, but with the Indiana Pacers giving the Heat all they can handle and the Sixers having already ousted the Bulls, Boston might just be primed to not only get back to the Eastern Conference Finals, but perhaps the NBA Finals.
In the first two games of the series it was clear the Celtics’ old legs were trying to keep up with the Sixers, and although the series was split heading back to Philadelphia, the Celtics were clearly outplayed up to that point. For Game 3 the Celtics woke up – and looked more like the team that won the 2008 NBA Finals than the team from Game 2.
“They’ve been in a lot of these kinds of games,” Sixers coach Doug Collins told Philly.com. “They know how important a swing game is to get that home court back. And they played great.”
Instead of pressing the panic button, the Celtics came out and made the Sixers play their game, though early on it was Philadelphia that seemed to hit every shot. That didn’t last long, and the second quarter brought about a Sixers implosion. The Celtics took control of the game and opened a wide lead which kept the home crowd quiet and eventually heading for the exits early.
The Celtics cruised to a 107-91 win and a 2-1 series lead. It might have been just what the Celtics needed.
And now the Sixers are in trouble.
An experienced team would put the loss behind them and prepare for the next game, but with the lack of experience, it might take more time for the Sixers to recover mentally.
But it isn’t just a mental game, and that’s where Boston has the advantage. The Celtics have a clear size advantage and have been dominating the boards. They are also taking quality shots, something the Sixers need to get better at doing.
Meanwhile, Boston’s top weapon, Rajon Rondo, has been driving it to the hoop with success. That’s where the lack of a superstar really hurts the Sixers, as they have no one who consistently drives through the lane. Not to mention there's no one on the Sixers who deserves the ball on the last possession of a tight game.
The pressure is now on Philly as they look to get even in the series on Friday night, but there is no doubt that the Celtics should win this series, especially since they are in the driver’s seat.
Photo Credit: AP