1. Will there be offense?
The Sixers are still, somehow, the best defensive team in the NBA via defensive efficiency. I know, it hasn’t looked good lately, but it’s mostly been a failure of the offense. Their lead has diminished, though, to a rising team in second place. To almost no one’s surprise, it’s the Celtics. Boston’s recent streak, despite having major injury issues, has come because they are a veteran team that (a) doesn’t get rattled and (b) plays suffocating defense.
The Celtics and Sixers have similar defensive systems. They stress prevents shots in the paint and threes, preferring the opposition shoot mid-range jumpers. They crash the defensive boards as a team and largely don’t try for offensive boards, as they attempt to prevent fast breaks and establish their set defense early. They don’t gamble for steals, with the sole exception of Rajon Rondo. And like the Sixers, they’ve been successful.
However, this focus on one end of the floor makes it more difficult to score on the other. Neither gets too many easy points, as both fall beneath their desired fast break scoring title. Each takes too many jumpers because they lack back-to-the-basket scorers. Both are below average offensive teams. It could be a slugfest. The only major difference is with go-to scoring: Paul Pierce is much better than anyone the Sixers can throw out there.
2. Can the Sixers starters do anything?
They scored 31 points yesterday. I don’t see us winning if that happens again. It may also be the last time we see this starting five, so that’s noteworthy.
3. Ray Allen, off the bench
The more I think about this move, the more I like it for Boston. The Celtics replaced Ray Allen in the starting five with Avery Bradley (apparently the intention was to originally replace him with Mickael Pietrus, but his gruesome injury in the last Sixers-Celtics game prevented that from occurring). The results for Boston have been good – the starting lineup has played well, while the bench has someone that can actually provide some offense. Meanwhile, the Sixers will have trouble exploiting his defense on Evan Turner like before – we’ll need to find something else to start.