The game four miracle comeback was inspiring, but all the Sixers really accomplished was getting the series back on track. Being the lower seed, they should be tied 2-2 after four games, and the home team still has a big advantage with two of the final three being on their floor. Win tonight, however, and the Sixers will put themselves in the driver's seat. Come out with the energy they ended game four with, and the Celtics will start to realize exactly how old they are. It's time to kick them, before they get back up.
Not that this stat means a whole lot, but the Sixers haven't won a game five in a series in nearly 11 years. Of course, they hadn't done a lot of things they've accomplished this season for a long time, so adding another to the list shouldn't shock anyone.
Let's check in on the minutes for the core Celtics heading into game five:
- Paul Pierce: 156 minutes
- Kevin Garnett: 143 minutes
- Rajon Rondo: 161 minutes
- Ray Allen: 127 minutes
Quite a haul over the first four games of the series, and they haven't been easy minutes. These teams have played some of the most intense games you'll ever see, and the Celtics aren't exactly a team that can coast. They have to play an extremely active, taxing defense to even have a shot. When the Sixers are attacking the rim, they increase the pressure on that defense. They have all five Celtics shifting bodies and responsibilities and expending energy, energy they can conserve when the Sixers get lazy on the offensive end, dribble down, isolate and settle for a jumper. By no means do I want to see Evan Turner shoot 5/22 again in this game. I don't ever want to see that again in any game. What I do want to see, however, is 38 attempts in the lane and the 36 free throw attempts that aren't included in that number.
If this game becomes about who can shoot better from the outside, the Celtics will be able to steal some rest on the floor for their old guys and out-shoot the Sixers, most likely. If this game is about penetration, finishing at the rim, interior passing and drive-and-kick threes, the pendulum swings in the Sixers' favor.
A couple of big keys: (1) Lavoy needs to stay out of foul trouble early. Not only is he the only guy who's had success defending Garnett, he's also the only big who gets down there on the blocks and fights for offensive rebounds. His muscle and Thad's hustle led to so many extra attempts in the second half of game four. I'd be worried if he wasn't able to play 30+ minutes due to foul trouble. Also, it's kind of nice to have a center who will dunk the ball when he makes a catch a couple feet from the rim instead of pump faking twice and then taking an underhand scoop. (2) Keep the marginal guys firmly on the margin. Keep this game about the Celtics' big four, don't let some bench player, Brandon Bass or Avery Bradley make a huge impact. Bass is going to shoot those 18-footers. Bradley is going to take corner threes and cut along the baseline for free points when his defender falls asleep. Keep those guys in check, they typically play better at home, for whatever reason.
It's heartening they were able to come back from the disastrous start in game two, and then again in game four. That experience should help them if it happens again, but it sure would be nice to see them start strong and maintain it for a full 48. We haven't seen the Sixers at their best yet in this series. Put it together in game five and you can end it without booking another trip to Beantown.
One final word of caution. Someone asked Jodie (I believe) to describe how the team was feeling after the game four win. His answer, "Confident." A decent answer, but not what I want their attitude to be. I want them to be determined. Determined to do all the dirty work to bring this game home.
The tip is at 7pm on TNT. Game thread will land at 5.
Question for you guys: Give me the odds that Brand will have a positive impact on a game before this playoff run ends.