The Celtics-Sixers series featured 3 games, down from the usual 4. Each told a different story, which is to say, each of these teams changed over time. Here’s four things to take away from the season series:
1. The Celtics had a combined 0 days of rest before the three games during the season.
That’s right, the Celtics had no days of rest before any of the meetings, all occurring on the back ends of a back-to-back, having to travel between each. You could actually see some of the effects during the games – the lack of energy in the third quarter of Game 2 especially, when the Sixers outscored the Celtics by 20. They had little rest and were beaten up by injuries as well in that game – the Mickael Pietrus concussion happened, and the Celts were already without Ray Allen. However, that did open the door for Avery Bradley to start, which ultimately may have helped this aging Celtics team (I’ll have more on this later).
The Sixers had a day of rest before each of the two wins. They lost a back-to-back on the road in Boston handily. Because both series finished in six games, there will be no back-to-backs, so theoretically this favors the banged-up Celtics squad.
2. None of the games occurred before March.
This is important only because of the respective starts for each team. The Celtics started off dangerously slowly (there was talk about this team missing the playoffs, for heaven’s sake), while the Sixers started off extraordinarily well (there was talk that this team would be up there with Chicago and Miami, while healthy). But those starts had all but no effect on these games, because they took place after regression set in.
So the teams are more like themselves now than they would be if the games took place in, say, January. A lot has changed since then. With one notable exception, not much has changed since March either.
3. Paul Pierce shot stunningly well against Andre Iguodala.
One of the people that Andre Iguodala routinely abused to garner his defensive reputation in his earlier years was Paul Pierce. The Truth truly couldn’t shake Iggy – his size and strength advantages were mitigated by Iguodala’s extremely long wingspan. Iguodala also avoided body contact, which is Pierce’s primary method of gaining separation from defenders. Thus, Pierce routinely struggled to get his points against Andre.
This year, however, Pierce has shown that he can score against one of the best in the league. Between the three games, Pierce averaged just under 18 points, which isn’t bad but maybe not terrific. However, his 53 points overall on 36 shots is remarkable against Iguodala. It looks like Pierce was patient, knowing that he might not get as many looks as he’d like but converting the looks that he got.
4. Avery Bradley played a small role in the losses, a large role in the win.
This will undoubtedly change. Bradley played off the bench sparingly to start the year. His defense was always seen as a reason to give him playing time, but his point guard skills lacked. The Celtics need a player who, while not actually creating much offense, needs to get the ball in the hands of others so that they can create some. That’s why Rajon Rondo‘s assist numbers are off the charts and yet why the Celtics aren’t even an average offensive team.
Bradley couldn’t do that effectively. But since then, they’ve moved him into an off-guard role. With an improved jumper, he’s become a solid if unspectacular member of the offense and a dedicated defensive wizard (not of the Washington variety) who has helped make the Celtics the best defensive team in the NBA (along with DPOY candidate and self-motivation guru Kevin Garnett). He’ll likely have primary defensive duties on Jrue Holiday, and he’ll give Jrue as hard a time as any defender he will see.