Prior to Rajon Rondo's injury, the Celtics were 20-23 and looking their age. Since the injury, they've won 11 of 15 and they're seemingly the Celtics of old. Is Rondo's absence leading to better basketball or did the Celts simply run into a relatively easy portion of their schedule? Probably more of the latter. Tonight, the Sixers will look to bounce back from their loss to Washington (and the 34 that preceded it) against the team that ended their season last year.
First, a word on the Celts 11-4 stretch. The first win over the Heat was legit. After that, there really isn't a quality win in the bunch. They beat the Clips without Griffin and CP3. They beat the Nuggets in triple OT, but Igoudala was hurt. Their only decent road win came in Utah, in OT. They're playing better basketball, and they may continue to do so when the schedule stiffens, but this was a pretty cake stretch of games made easier by injuries to other teams.
Now, to tonight's game. I try not to swear during previews (I typically save salty language for the game threads), but this one is an exception. Pressure the shit out of the ball. The Celts don't have a point guard on their roster. Not one. I'm talk full court, all night. Don't let the Celts walk the ball up the floor. Make them work, make them dribble, and don't give them that easy release to Garnett at mid-court when you're pressuring them. If they get it across mid-court, trap. Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee are not point guards. Neither is Jason Terry. The only way Boston is able to get into their offensive sets in a timely manner is if you allow them to do so. I want to see full-court pressure. I want to see super-aggressive traps on the defensive end. The Celtics are a savvy bunch, they're going to break the pressure a couple times and probably get dunks or other easy looks as a result, but they're also without a handle on their active roster. The turnovers will come if you keep the pressure on, and their old legs will wear down.
On the offensive end, Jrue is going to draw Avery Bradley, which is fine if Jrue has the ball in his hands. He can handle the pressure. It's going to be a problem if Jrue is off the ball. Bradley is excellent at denying his man. Limit the nonsense of Turner bringing the ball up. Stay away from the Jrue/Pargo lineup, or if you must go to it, keep Jrue at the point. If you run him off the ball, it's either going to eat up 10 seconds with Jrue running all over the floor just to get the ball, or Turner is going to be throwing away entry passes to Hawes after failing to get the ball to Jrue on the wing.
If they're going to win, Jrue's shooting slump can last exactly one game. If he can't throw the ball in the ocean tonight, I don't see them having a chance. Of course, if you're rooting for the tank, just hope the exact opposite of everything I've just said happens.
The tip is at 7pm on TNT. Use this as your game thread, I'll be watching on DVR. By the way, when next season's schedule is released and the Sixers have one national game, don't complain. Just think about how the matchups panned out in their national games this year. The NBA should be stingy with their national exposure of this cursed franchise.