The Sixers playoff hopes are slim, to be optimistic. If they wish to continue having any hopes at all, they must protect their home court tonight when the hapless Celtics come to town.
The Sixers are 7–point favorites, but this game will not be a cake walk. The Celts are coming off impressive back-to-back wins over playoff teams (Orlando and Toronto).
When the Celtics were mired in an 18–game losing streak, and Pierce was sidelined with an injury, I thought it was a sure bet that the Celts would tank the season. I expected them to pass the Memphis Grizzlies for the worst record in the league. Then, Pierce came back, and he’s helped the Celts win just enough games to keep them ahead of the Grizzlies. I’m not faulting the guy for this, in fact I think it speaks volumes about his character. Having the worst record is no guarantee at the #1 pick, after all.
The question the Celts need to answer is, should “The Truth” be the building block for the future, or should Al Jefferson. Pierce is only 29, he’ll turn 30 in October. That’s not old by normal NBA standards, but when you look at him, and you watch him play, he seems much older. He’s no longer explosive, and he seems to lumber around the floor. He uses guile and skill to score, but his ancillary stats have declined. Danny Ainge had a choice to make, trade Pierce and really start from scratch, or keep him and try to build around him. I’m not so sure he made the right choice.
Pierce may not play tonight, due to various injuries. It just seems to me like his body is breaking down from the hard miles he’s put on it over the years. He reminds me of a smaller, more clutch version of Chris Webber.
And now, tonight’s game: The last time the teams met, Andre Iguodala lit up a depleted Celts team, scoring 31 points on 11–16 from the floor. The Sixers took care of business and extended the Celts season-long losing streak. The match-up of the game is Al Jefferson vs. Samuel Dalembert. Hunter may see some time against Big Al, but the two “centers” will provide the most drama. Jefferson has flourished this year, moving out from under Pierce’s shadow. He’s a relentless rebounder, and good low-post scorer. Dalembert has experienced a similar rebirth this year. A.I. and Webber moved on, and he found himself with more touches, which translated into more involvement in other areas. Since Iverson’s departure, Sammy has averaged a double-double, and he’s coming off a season-high 24 points in the Sixers 111–108 loss to the Wizards on Wednesday. Look for Dalembert to put up similar numbers to Jefferson in a double-digit win for the Sixers.
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Archives: Sixers End Magical Streak (12/23/06)