The Sixers lost to the Bucks, in large part, because they were tired after playing a tough game the night before against the Bulls. Actually, it's not just the fact they played the night before, it was also a result of Milwaukee realizing that and pushing the pace against Philly. They made the game into a track meet early, the Sixers had absolutely no legs left late. Tonight, Boston will drag their old roster to Philly fresh off an overtime win against the Rockets and a combined 164 minutes for their big four. One word: Run.
Here are Doc Rivers' options heading into this game (which is for first place in the Atlantic Division, by the way). Push his core guys upwards of 75 minutes over two nights, three of whom are on the wrong side of 35, or rely on Avery Bradley, Keyon Dooling, Greg Stiesma, Mickael Pietrus and Chris Wilcox for heavy, heavy minutes. Kind of a lose-lose situation.
Forget about the matchups. Forget about the aura of a Sixers/Celtics matchup. Forget about turnovers. Forget about Turner's minutes and his shooting. Forget about Lou's isolations. For one night, tonight, the only thing that matters is the win. The only that matters is holding on to the top spot in the Atlantic and besting a division foe, really the only division foe that matters. Doug Collins has this team playing an unbelievably structured game right now. I say throw some of that out the window. Heck, throw all of it out the window.
When both of these teams are well-rested, the Sixers' huge advantage is their youth and their athleticism. With Boston exhausted, that advantage is magnified. They need to come out tonight and shove this game right down Boston's throat. On the defensive end, pick up full court. Trap Rondo right when he gets the ball across half court, when Rondo's out of the game, make it abundantly clear to Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge that they don't have another legitimate PG on their roster. When a shot goes up, send a wing streaking down the floor in the opposite direction and look for the quick pass ahead (Boston is the worst team in the league on the offensive boards, you can afford it). Every time you grab a small grabs a defensive board, put it on the floor and push it up if there's no home run pass available. Force Boston to spring back on defense every time. When you do get forced into the half-court offense, run guys off a series of screens, swing the ball from side to side. Don't let Boston's players get a second of rest while they're on the floor.
Collins' mantra has been, "don't go for the home run play." Tonight, swing for the fences. Get the crowd into the game early. Make it look like an And1 tournament. Play loose, play fast, feed off the crowd and forget about the close losses. Just run Boston right off the court. Make them look as old as they are.
Since Doug Collins has recently messed with his starting lineup, let's take it a step further tonight. Boston doesn't start a true center. They have Kevin Garnett, who is a glorified jump shooter at this point of his career, and Brandon Bass who has never been anything more than a mid-range guy. Put Thad Young in the starting lineup. Trap every single pick-and-roll and trap it hard. Seal off the lane, make Pierce go one-on-one with Igudoala in his jock all night and make Ray Allen run suicides from one side of the floor to the other to get even a hint of daylight. Don't let the Celts come in and get comfortable by walking the ball up the floor for the first six minutes. Don't wait for the second unit to come in and pick up the energy. Bring the fight to the Celts right from the opening tip and don't let up for 48 minutes. The Celts can't handle the Sixers youth, speed and athleticism. Make that statement tonight, make it loud and clear. Let Celtics fans play the "we were tired" card after their blowout loss, when we all know they couldn't hang with the Sixers with all the rest int the world. Don't misconstrue what I'm saying here. This won't be easy. Leaving everything out on the floor is never easy. Playing like there's no tomorrow isn't something you can just do. Nothing worthwhile is easy, but sometimes it's necessary. Tonight is one of those nights.
The tip is at 7pm. This is the biggest game of the year, and all the Sixers need to do is want it more. That's it. Game thread will land at 5pm.