Let's cut right through it. If the Sixers lose this game, their season is over. There's no way they're coming back from a 3-1 deficit with two of the remaining games left to be played in Boston. More importantly, if they get outworked by the Celts like that again, the end couldn't possibly come soon enough. If they want this ride to continue, if they want any prayer of making the ECF, tonight is going to have to be a win.
If you need something to take solace in, Boston played their best game in game three. They shot 52% from the floor, 45.5% from three, got to the line 29 times and got huge scoring production from Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. Two guys you don't expect it from due to matchups and/or skills. Of course, they're capable of replicating it, but I'd say it's unlikely.
Adjustments. What can the Sixers do to make sure what happened on Wednesday does not happen again? Well, first things first, they need to find a way to slow Garnett down. Putting Brand, Hawes or Thad on him, one-on-one is not the answer. None of those guys have a prayer. Lavoy is the only one who's been able to defend Garnett in this entire series, so I'd start right there. Of course, Lavoy needs to be in the game and out of foul trouble to be able to do it. He picked up some silly fouls on Garnett which limited his minutes and put the Sixers in a tight spot in game three. They didn't react well. If Lavoy has similar problems in game four, I think it's time to dust Tony Battie off and see what he can do. I'd also like to see some smart doubling of Garnett when he gets the ball on the low blocks. Boston pretty much always has a non-shooter on the floor in Rajon Rondo. Double Garnett hard either digging down with Rondo's man, or by sending the nearest defender and setting your rotations so the extra pass only gives the Celts an open jumper for Rondo. Overplay everyone else, and the bigs just have to have their heads on a swivel to make sure the extra pass isn't to a cutting Rondo for a layup. The Celtics have figured out how to defend a team with a non-shooter on the perimeter. Evan Turner is open for a corner three on just about every play. Employ the same scheme, daring Rondo to beat you with jumpers.
Another adjustment is the approach against Paul Pierce. Iguodala has been playing him to contest the jumper because he didn't think he was healthy enough to drive. He needs to switch that around. Iguodala's still quick enough to close and contest jumpers, just take a half step off Pierce so you can cut down any driving lanes when he puts the ball on the floor. Finally, stop doubling Rondo when they run the pick-and-pop. Send the small under the screen, let the big hedge however he can, but don't lose body contact with the big. Boston can run that play whenever they want a decent look, it's their bailout play, take it away from them.
The Sixers haven't played what I'd call a good game yet in this series. They scraped to keep it close in the two games in Boston, but by no means were they clicking on all cylinders. It's time for them to put it all together tonight. Treat this like it's game seven, because for all intents and purposes, it is. Collins needs to forget about rest and whatever rotations he's got in his mind and keep his best possible lineup out there as much as possible. Sell out to get this win, and when you have an advantage, push it until it isn't there anymore.
The tip is at 8pm. Game thread will land around 6.