The national narrative of this series reads as follows: "The Celtics are wasting valuable rest time in this series. They're going to win it, but they really blew an opportunity by not finishing it up in four or five games." Tonight is the chance for the Sixers to flip that flawed narrative on its head.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett may have the heart of a champion and the eye of the tiger and veternabilityness oozing out of their pours, but they have the legs of old men. Attack them early, often and relentlessly. No matter what the scoreboard says, keep attacking, don't take your foot off the gas, and when the game is being decided, they'll be running on fumes. That's the script, follow it.
There's another wrinkle to throw in here, and it should be a point of emphasis throughout the game. Avery Bradley is the Celtics only legitimate on-the-ball defender. He's also nursing a painful shoulder injury. If you dribble against him in space, he can be very effective on the defensive end using his feet and quickness. I say make that shoulder a focal point. Don't just dribble the ball against him, take him down on the blocks, run him through multiple picks. Bradley can only guard one guy at a time. The Sixers have four capable ballhandlers who can initiate the offense. Whoever Bradley is guarding immediately moves off the ball and starts running through a series of screens, every time down the floor. Bradley either has to fight through contact to stay with his man, taking hits on that shoulder, or he has to avoid the contact, which means the cutter is going to be open. I'm not calling for cheap shots on his shoulder, that's uncalled for, and unnecessary. Set legal screens, make him defend Turner or Iguodala on the block, and if he's guarding Turner, make him box out. Send Turner to the offensive glass and rotate back the other two perimeter players to keep the floor balanced. If Bradley can't go, or you can negate his defensive skills, then Boston doesn't have a single perimeter defender who can stop penetration, and penetration is the key.
Interesting stat through the first four games: The team leading after the first quarter has lost every game. That being said, please come out strong tonight. I can't handle another instant double-digit deficit.
The tip is at 7pm on TNT. This is your game thread. I'll be right here suffering the insufferable fools in TNT's studio, join me if you dig swing games.
Prediction: Starts with a "w" and rhymes with shin.