First step for a lower seed in a seven game series: Split the first two on the road. Second step: Take game three. Third step: let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Sixers took one of two in Boston, now they need to take care of their home floor. Tonight, the Celitcs will look to take home court advantage back and send a message to the Sixers. That's the narrative they'd like to follow. I've got something different in mind.
You can look at this series two different ways. The first is the way the national media has chosen to view it. The Celtics are clearly the better team and they merely took the Sixers lightly in Boston. The logic is the Celtics will now realize they can't underestimate the Sixers and they'll dig deeper, or try harder, and put the Sixers out of their misery. There are a couple of problems with this logic. Number one, we aren't talking about the 2009 Celtics here. We're talking about an old, shallow team that had to overextend its oldest players for the past eight weeks or so. Second, the Sixers aren't playing like the team that finished 15-22. They haven't played like that team in about a month.
The national narrative has the Celtics stomping on the Sixers tonight. The Sixers have been lucky in the first two games to even keep the game close. In fact, only Boston's apathy kept them in those games in Boston. Well, I've watched the same games and what I've seen is a Boston team fighting for its life because they know they're on borrowed time. Actually, they aren't on borrowed time. Their time has flat out passed them by. They struggled with the Hawks, a young team. Now they're doing worse than struggling with the Sixers, an even younger team.
Tonight, the Sixers have a chance to break Boston's will. I'm sure the Celtics will try to muster everything they have for this crucial game in the series, but there are only so many times they can throw their best punch and watch a stronger opponent shrug it off and counter. If the Sixers can maintain their composure, if they can stand up to the initial punch, at some point, Boston simply won't have another left in them.
They key is to be relentless. There can't be any slippage at all in this game. The message needs to be sent that not only do the Sixers belong, but they're the superior team in this series. If they can do that, if they can continue to meet run with run, and make every single inch Boston gains hard fought, eventually the Celtics will break. It might not happen in this game, but it will happen in this series. Keep attacking. Attack the rim, attack the Celtics on the defensive end. Treat every loose ball like a battle to the death. No layups. No freebies. Make it perfectly clear to the Celtics that you know exactly who they are, exactly what they're about, and you know what, you're not scared. Not in the least.
For all the history the Celtics franchise brings with them into this series, I honestly think the Sixers played a better team in the first round. The Bulls were definitely a better defensive team, or at least a tougher matchup for the Sixers considering their interior presence. They were a much better offensive team throughout the season, even without Derrick Rose. Boston has name power. So far, the only players who have gotten caught up in the names on the back of Boston's jerseys have been the guys wearing the green and white.
Come out, execute your game plan, be the aggressors for 48 minutes and the first swing game of the series will fall in the win column. The only thing you can't do is give Boston life, you can't let them start believing they're five years younger all of the sudden. They're old, you have to make them feel it every time you make the extra pass and they have to fight through a screen to rotate. You have to make them feel it every time they drive the lane and scrape themselves off the floor. They have a finite amount of fight left in them, make them use up every bit of it, and find they still need more to beat you on your home floor.
The tip is at 7pm on TNT. Game thread will land around 5. Question for you guys: Does Brand's light workload in the first two games pay huge dividends in the next two, at home, against a tired Celtics front court?