In effect, the Boston game was a tremendous bounce back from the embarrassing loss to the Nets. The Sixers fell behind by 15 points to the defending champs, a team whose specialty is piling on and putting teams away early. They fell behind by 15, then turned it on and found themselves up by 7 with 3:51 to go in the fourth quarter. Then up by 2 with 6.8 seconds left.
Granted, Kevin Garnett wasn't playing, but in most people's eyes, missing KG means the Celtics only had a 2-0 advantage over the Sixers in the superstar category. They scored 99 points on the number two defense in the league. They scored 29 points in the fourth quarter after being held to 8 in the fourth against the Nets.
By every measure, save defense on the final possession, they excised the demons of the Nets game. It was a tall task, bouncing back quickly against the Celts. In all honesty, it wasn't a fair test. Boston is a team that should beat the Sixers. Tonight's game, against the Pacers, will be the true test.
While it was nice to see the Sixers play well against the Celtics, in the end, the game was a loss. When you're talking about bouncing back, or righting the ship, the only thing that really matters is the end result. Right now, the momentum couldn't be worse. The Sixers blew consecutive games. Tonight, they need to make a statement. A statement to themselves more than anyone else.
Since Tony DiLeo took over, the Sixers are 9-2 against sub-.500 teams. They've made quick work of them, for the most part, like any playoff-bound team should. The Pacers, with their Jim O'Brien offense, always seem to play the Sixers well. Honestly, their style puts an intense amount of pressure on the Sixers' biggest weakness, three point defense. O'Brien wants threes, and plenty of them. He's got the shooters to hit them too.
In the first meeting, it took a huge comeback by the Sixers to win in Indiana. The second time, T.J. Ford hit a buzzer-beater to sink the Sixers.
The Pacers are a miserable defensive team. Actually, miserable is an understatement. They're lousy defenders, they allow teams to shoot an insane percentage they don't cause many turnovers, they foul at an alarming rate. This is the type of team you have to punish. If you want to erase the memory of the past two games, this needs to be a 20-point win.
I'm only going to list two keys for this one.
- Stay with your man on the perimeter. All threes need to be contested. No one warrants a double in the post.
- Secure the rebounds before you run. Missed threes mean long rebounds. That means Willie, Miller and Iguodala need to box their men out and make sure the Sixers get the defensive boards before they take off down the court. Indiana isn't exactly known for defensive effort, the break will still be there after you get the rebound. No leaking necessary.
The tip is at 7 p.m. Check out Arin It Out for a Pacers P.O.V.
I'll be here, live, watching the game. Join me in the comments for the in-game discussion.
Early word is that Elton Brand will be available tonight. I'll keep you updated if I hear otherwise.
UPDATE: EB is done for the season. Check out the news here.