After a brief respite, the Sixers are back in action at Boston. The Celtics are old, banged up and tired. Tonight, we'll see if the Sixers can push the tempo and their youth advantage after a grueling regular season and a tough first round for the Celts.
We've the two best remaining defenses going at each other in this series (Boston was 1st, Chicago 2nd, Sixers 3rd in DFR this season), and two pretty bad offenses. Of course, what people won't focus on is that Boston's offense was actually worse than the Sixers'. Both teams rely on the long two way too much, though Boston shoots it better. Two big differences in their offensive numbers from the regular season: The Celtics don't grab offensive rebounds, at all, and they turn the ball over (25th in the league). They don't get to the line a whole lot (18th, but the Sixers were dead last). Essentially, Boston needs to be hitting their shots to win, and even if they are hitting their shots, they shoot themselves in the foot enough to keep you in the game against them.
It'll be interesting to see how the Sixers handle the Rondo pick-and-pops, and whether they play off him, daring him to shoot jumpers. I'd prefer they pressed him, take away his passing angles and make him work for everything. I like the odds in any game when Iguodala can make Pierce either an inefficient scorer or a non-factor. He's really the only guy on their roster who can create his own shot. Watch out for those vulture threes he takes in late transition. You don't want to allow him to pile up points without having to do something to break down the defense. If Garnett and Bass have an off shooting night on those long twos, the Celtics are pretty helpless on the offensive end, so keep an eye on that as well.
How they got here doesn't really matter. They're here now. Seven-game series against the Celtics for a trip to the conference finals. One game at a time, one win at a time. Get it started tonight.
The tip is at 8pm on TNT. This is your game thread. You know where I'll be, see you then.
Prediction: Sixers weather early emotions from Boston and their crowd, wear them down and win the game in the second half.