Put it out of your mind. It never happened. That's the best way to think about last night's disgrace in Chicago. This is the one time where I think playing a back-to-back, on the road, against two of the top teams in the East is a good thing for the Sixers. They have the opportunity to erase last night's game right away, no time to dwell.
Check out the game capsule from the Sixers first meeting with Boston this season.
Four major differences between this game and the last time the Sixers faced the Celtics:
- This game is in Boston, last time it was in Philly.
- This time the Celts are well-rested, the Sixers played last night. Vice versa last time
- Shaquille O'Neal is expected to play tonight, he didn't play last time
- Rajon Rondo will not play tonight. He played 47 minutes last time.
Obviously, three of the four are not in the Sixers' favor, so let's focus on the fourth. Nate Robinson will get the start at the point for the Celtics. This is Robinson's sixth start for the Celtics and Boston is 5-1 in those games. I broke down their advanced stats into games with Rondo starting and games with Robinson starting. Essentially, the Celts are better offensively with Rondo in there (by about 3 points-per-100-possessions, 108.57 with Robinson, 111.25 with Rondo) and worse defensively (by over 7 points-per-100-possessions, 94.58 with Robinson, 101.84 with Rondo). Robinson's starts haven't exactly come against good defensive teams, though. Atlanta twice (Mike Bibby guarding him), New Jersey twice (Devin Harris), Toronto (Jose Calderon) and Indiana (Darren Collison). Those PGs also aren't really capable of taking advantage of the size mismatch in any meaningful way.
I hate to put this much pressure on a kid, especially when he's been struggling so badly over the past three games, but if the Sixers are going to have any prayer of winning this game, Jrue needs to absolutely dominate Nate Robinson. He needs to pressure him into mistakes (Robinson turned the ball over 6 times against Atlanta last week), and he needs to make Robinson the focal point of their offense, if possible. Nate loves to shoot, if he's taking 15-20 shots, that's less opportunities for the other guys on the team, who are more efficient with the ball. Punish him on the defensive end with both drives and post-ups, make the game about his Napoleanic complex, and then sit back and let him sink their team on the other end of the floor.
Boston doesn't have a backup option at the point. Marquis Daniels has been playing there, but he's not a PG. When he's in the game, I want the Sixers to go to full court pressure on the ball. Don't trap, just pester him all the way up the floor. He's going to cough it up. The same goes for Avery Bradley. Boston doesn't have the luxury of using Paul Pierce as a point-forward, that was never his skill set. Ray Allen isn't really capable either. This is a glaring weakness, on both ends of the floor, and if the Sixers can't capitalize on it, they aren't going to even come close to winning this game.
I'd start the game with a play to get Jrue the ball in the post with Robinson on him, with Jodie Meeks on the strong side as an outlet if they double down on him. Ideally, Jrue will get an easy conversion, build his confidence, and set the tone for the game right there. It's imperative that Jrue gets off to a good start and keeps the pressure up, on both ends, throughout the game.
Prediction: Boston 101, PHI 90
Even with no PG, Boston is just too strong, and winning in Boston, well, I just don't see it.