If the season ended today, the Sixers would finish seventh in the Eastern Conference, their opponents in the first round, the Boston Celtics. It just so happens, those same Celtics will be arriving at the Wach in a few minutes for a 7 p.m. tip. Stats, keys, thoughts and in-game discussion after the jump.
This is probably another game where you can throw the stats out. Doc Rivers came out and said the final two games don't mean anything for the Celts, which they don't, so I don't see him extending the minutes for any of his starters unless he really wants to send a message to the Sixers. That's highly doubtful, though. The Celts have bigger things on their minds than a potential matchup with Philly starting this weekend.
So, what kind of mindset will the Sixers bring into the game. Look back over the past couple of months and you'll notice the trend we've all come to know and loathe. The Sixers don't show up for games they should win, they show up in spades for games they should lose. Which type of game is this?
Personally, I think it's a game they should win. Without Kevin Garnett, the Celtics are probably no better than the 4 seed in the East. Remove Ray Allen from the equation and they're back to being a lottery team (Allen will miss tonight's game with a one-game suspension). And that's assuming they're playing and coaching to win. Instead, we're going to see a heavy dose of Stephon Marbury instead of Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen instead of Paul Pierce. That lineup should be a gimme, it's all going to depend on the effort level of the Sixers.
Thad Young's return to the lineup is the key to the game for me. Rumor has it, he's good for 15-20 minutes, so the biggest question is when will those minutes come? Will DiLeo immediately put him back in the starting lineup and play him 8-10 minutes in the first and third quarters, or will he use him off the bench for 3 or 4 spurts off the bench.
Personally, I'd like to see him used with the second unit at the end of the first/beginning of the second and then again at the end of the third, beginning of the fourth. Obviously, my eyes are going to be glued to the kid's ankle. I want to see how he cuts off it, what his top-end speed is like and if he's at all hesitant to put the ball on the floor and go by his man. If he takes more jumpers tonight, fine, but he can't be limited to jumpers for the playoffs.
Another question is who loses minutes to get Thad back into the rotation. Here's a breakdown of the minute distribution among the bigs over the past 7 games (Check out Derek Bodner's awesome database over at Philly Arena for stats like these, by the way).
- Speights - 23:32
- Dalembert - 22:45
- Evans - 22:18
- Ratliff - 18:17
- Marshall (5 games) - 8:55
I sincerely hope the Sixers don't read the papers and take this game for granted. Unfortunately, if the last five games are any indication, they're more than capable of laying a giant egg on Fan Appreciation Night. Things could be worse, though. At least we know the Andres will show up on time for the game.
The tip is at