Let's Pregame: Celtics @ Sixers (3/7/12)
Keep it Going: The Celtics have won five straight, the last two coming in hard fought battles that ventured into OT. This game is huge as their opponents, the revived Sixers, hold the top spot in the Atlantic Division by one game. If the Celtics win tonight, they tie the Sixers atop the division.
Ex-Big Three: Facing the best defense in the NBA, the aging big three made up of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce must find a way to exploit the small holes of the defense. The Sixers are without big man Spencer Hawes, which should allow Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass to capitalize down low. Pierce has been a monster lately, averaging 22.6 pts, 5 rebs, and 5 assists over the last five games. He has come up big in the clutch, using his signature back-down-awkward-shot over the top of the defender move to sink the Rockets and Knicks. My biggest concern is their collective stamina, as the Big Three have logged major minutes during the overtime games. It is up to the bench to pick up the slack and produce. It's up to Bass to have a big game off the bench.
Rondo: Amid trade rumors, Rajon Rondo has played some of his best basketball, recording one of the most insane triple doubles I have ever seen against Linsanity and the Knicks (had to throw him in here). Rondo will have his hands full tonight against the crafty Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams (Philly’s leading scorer).
Bounce Back: The Sixers have been sliding of late. They've won only twice in their past 10 games, including Monday's loss to the lowly Bucks (without Milwaukee's star center Andrew Bogut). With an even tougher schedule ahead them, they need all the wins they can get to stay in the chase for the 3-seed in the East (behind the Heat and Bulls). On top of that, a loss tonight would put the Sixers into a virtual tie with the Celtics for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. It's pretty obvious that this is an important game for Coach Doug Collins' crew.
Shutting down Celts' stars: Paul Pierce is the Celtics' go-to scorer, but lockdown defender Andre Iguodala will be spotting him all game. In four matchups last season, Pierce scored only 12.5 points on 41.7% shooting, so don't expect anything transcendant from him tonight. Rondo has been going beserk since trade rumors began swirling amidst Boston's struggles, and he has the ability to drop a triple-double on any team if he's motivated enough. I expect Ray Allen to hit multiple threes and for Kevin Garnett to exceed his rebounding numbers and get a double-double to pick up what Pierce can't get on Iggy.
Who will show up in the 4th?: The Sixers boast one of the best benches in the league (leading scorer Lou Williams and forward Thaddeus Young are key for the team), but they lack a go-to man when it matters most. Philly can't rely on Williams over and over to initiate offense for himself in the closing seconds (he's just not consistent enough to do it), while Boston can put the ball in Pierce's hands in clutch moments. For Philly fans' sake, hopefully the game won't come down to the final seconds.
Give and Go
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