I don't know about you, but the color green turns my stomach when I see it on the basketball court. The Celtics are the enemy, plain and simple. Pierce, Garnett, Rondo and Allen are a scourge on my basketball world and there's nothing I enjoy more than seeing the Sixers beat them. Tonight, the Sixers need to tap into some of that hatred, they need to stir it up, relish in it, and send a message to a rival and possible first-round opponent.
There's a twisted sort of symmetry to tonight's matchup in Beantown. If the Sixers beat the Celtics, they're taking a giant step toward securing a first-matchup with Boston. The Celts are in a tight race with Miami (currently a half game behind the Heat), and the Sixers need wins to hold off a suddenly hot NY Knicks team (or a NY Knicks team who suddenly found an extremely easy stretch of schedule, whichever way you want to look at it). With a win tonight, the Sixers will go into tomorrow's meeting with the Knicks carry no worse than 1.5 game lead. With a loss, they could be only a half game up (The Knicks play at home vs. the Raptors tonight).
If the Sixers can win tonight, they will split the season series with Boston, and their two losses will have come on last-second shots by the Celts. I'm sure the seed of doubt will creep into the swollen heads of the Celtics players, and the Sixers will have some confidence heading into a first round tilt with the hated Green. Really, this is how the story should be written. The Sixers should win this game, they should hammer the Knicks tomorrow night, then they should be able to rest guys with the #6 neatly tucked in their back pockets. Lou Williams should recover in time for the playoffs and we should have a hell of a first-round series against the Celts. If the Sixers don't win tonight - and they are 6.5 point underdogs - well, then nothing is going to be easy over these final five games. They're going to have to scratch and claw to stay at #6, if they actually want to stay at #6. They could possibly let the Knicks pass them, which would be a moral defeat, in my book. Really, nothing good comes of losing.
So how can they win? I still stand by my hack-a-Rondo theory. That guy is deathly afraid of going to the line, if you send him to the floor a couple times with hard fouls, he's going to stop driving the lane, and if he isn't penetrating, no one else on that team is really capable of creating their own shot. Especially not when Pierce is being blanketed by Iguodala. Everything begins and ends with Rondo for their offense, and there's a strategy you can use to completely take away his strength. Maybe Doug is just keeping that one in his back pocket until the playoffs get here.
The main weakness for Boston is the middle of their defense. Shaq is hurt, again. Nenad is hurt. Jermaine O'Neal is probably about to be hurt again. Glen Davis and Jeff Green are going to have to see a ton of time at the four and five for Boston, we need to take advantage of their lack of shotblocking and size in the middle. It's not going to come from our bigs, it has to come from the perimeter. Jrue and Iguodala need to drive, drive and drive some more. Put fouls on Garnett, force him to cheat off Brand to clog up the lane, then dish to Brand for easy elbow jumpers. Force the whole defense to collapse to protect the lane, then kick the ball out to Jodie or Jrue for open threes. Put Turner at the point and get him the ball in the post. Just attack. The Celtics are no longer the tough, intimidating team they used to be, they're just a bunch of old guys with a big hole in the middle and a talented, yet flawed point guard.
Prediction: PHI 97, BOS 90
The tip is at 7:30pm. Game thread will land 90 minutes prior. Welcome to Philly, Antonio Daniels. I'm waiting with baited breath to see if you'll get in the game.