Because we (again) have only two days to prepare for the series, in lieu of individual pieces from our staff writers and myself, we’re answering questions in our roundtable preview.
(Also note that Kyle sat this one out due to a busted laptop)
1. Before we get started, what did you think of round 1?
Sean O’Connor: In the first roundtable, I suggested that an injury that “significantly hampers” Derrick Rose along with another injury to some other key player was needed for the Sixers to have a chance to win the series. Well? I can’t say I’m responsible for the injuries, but I would say that I “called it.” Anyway, the Sixers took advantage of the situation. They proved they can beat good teams when Spencer Hawes gives them some production. And they proved they can sometimes win close games. However, it took some luck to win round 1 even with all of those advantages, which makes winning round 2 a tall task.
Dante Nelson: Tough break for Bulls. Good for Sixers to take advantage. Highlight for me was Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday’s performance. It’s sort of a small sample size though, and I wouldn’t say it’s like they have arrived to stardom. But it was encouraging to see them play the way they did while Iguodala and Brand had struggles. I had checked out of the season during the late season collapse and only focused on player development. That continued into the playoffs. For me, the team’s future is still more important than their playoff run.
Stephane Hardinger: It was awesome to see the Sixers get their first series win since 2003, but obviously they wouldn’t have won the series, and maybe not a game without the injuries to Joakim Noah and especially reigning MVP Derrick Rose. However, that’s basketball and the Sixers capitalized on the opportunity they were given.
Danny Solis: Round 1 said a lot about the Sixers as a team and what they’ve become. Their offense is scarily stagnant when faced up against a tough defense in Chicago, but it was refreshing to see this team make it to the next round after nine years.
2. The Sixers won the season series between these two teams 2-1. Does this match up actually favor the Sixers?
SO: No, I don’t think so. As I outlined yesterday, each game during the regular season came as the second of a back-to-back for the Celtics. Predictably, on the road with old legs, it didn’t work out well for them. But now, with at least a day to rest between every game, the Celtics won’t have that problem. Meanwhile, they defend as well as the Bulls overall but haven’t had crippling injuries so far. Since the all-star break, they’ve been otherworldly on the defensive end of the floor. I can’t imagine the Sixers scoring much at all on this team.
DN: Yes, I said during the season when the Sixers were in 3rd place in the East that they could beat any of the teams under them in ranking. I stand by this statement today. It won’t be easy. Celtics are peaking at the right time. And we don’t have Andrew Toney. But, even so, I think Sixers have the advantage in many areas. Their youth is a factor. Rajon Rondo would cause some of the problems Derrick Rose would have caused for Sixers. Only real difference is shooting. Contain Rondo and force him to shoot. I think Andre Iguodala should slow down Paul Pierce just enough. Another Bulls-Celtics comparison: Rip Hamilton and Ray Allen. Allen loves to run the screens and get open for a shot. What we saw vs Rip was Jrue chasing Rip through the screens. I think we should do that again. That would mean Evan Turner would be on Rondo. I can see that working. Not too sure how good I feel about Brand on Garnett. We might see Hawes defend Garnett on the pick and roll. An example would be Rondo driving and then kicking it out to Garnett. Garnett has range and Hawes would probably be better at defending his shot than the shorter Brand. Again, as vs the Bulls, I’m looking at the Sixers winning more by defense than offense.
SH: Despite what the season series says, I still think the Celtics are the favorites in this series. The Sixers have the deeper bench, and I’d argue the advantage at SG currently, but Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett are all better than anyone the Sixers have on their team. Factor in the postseason experience the Celtics have, and I’d say the Celtics are still the favorites in the series.
DS: No, I think the playoffs are a whole new game and the experienced teams such as Boston and San Antonio know when to turn it up an extra notch. The Celtics are loaded with postseason experience and will make it extremely difficult for the Sixers’ half court offense.
3. Jrue Holiday played inconsistently but well overall in round 1. How will he play this round?
SO: He’ll have a lot of trouble repeating his first round performance because he has Avery Bradley to contend with. Bradley, the upstart defensive specialist, I think will be assigned to Jrue for the majority of the series. Jrue Holiday succeeded in round 1 in large part because point guard is the only position where the Bulls don’t have at least one excellent defender. He could take advantage of Watson and Lucas pretty easily. But against Bradley, he’ll have a lot of trouble producing. And even Rondo’s not a bad defender, though he’s better as a roamer and pick-pocket guy.
DN: Back to the young guy’s performances, Jrue has shown flashes really all season of how good he can be. I think Rondo’s defense may cause problems. Maybe Jrue will be a major factor. They’ll need it. But something in me says no. So no, he won’t be as effective. Like I said, Jrue would be chasing Ray Allen around. Can he handle that?
SH: I think Jrue can keep it up. Although Rajon Rondo wil be a tougher defender on Jrue, I think Jrue was making good decisions, getting to the rim, and knocking down jumpers, which are the keys for his success. While he might not continue to shoot 45% from 3 next series and he can be frustrating, I think Jrue will still be the best player on the floor for the Sixers at times during the series, which is what they will need from him to have a chance to win it.
DS: These playoffs have opened up a new chapter in the development of Jrue Holiday. He’s now playing with more confidence, taking his shots while also driving the lane. At times, he was the go-to-guy during the Chicago series, it will be interesting to how he matches up with Rajon Rondo.
4. Which player, on either team, is the X-factor for round 2?
SO: I’ve mentioned Bradley too much in my previews to really list him again here, so I’ll go with a Sixer: Thaddeus Young. He all but no-showed round 1. His match up with Taj Gibson was maybe the worst possible for him – a big who can match his mobility while also having a strength advantage was just too much. Against the Celtics, I don’t see this problem as much. We need some more scoring to come from somewhere, and I think he’s the most likely solution to our scoring problems.
DN: Rajon Rondo would be the guy from the Celtics to watch for. The things he can do with that ball are just wonderful. One of the blowout wins the Sixers had over the Celtics involved Evan Turner starting and exploding. Not to say that Evan’s the guy Celtics need to keep in check. But, if Evan continues to attack the rim, he’ll cause some problems. But really, focus on Rondo if you’re Sixers. Also, who gets more triple doubles: Andre Iguodala or Rajon Rondo? Both wear #9. And perhaps the series will come down to which #9 plays better?
SH: Kevin Garnett is the player to watch in this series. Although Paul Pierce is the best scorer on the Celtics and Rajon Rondo is a spectacular playmaker, Garnett is the heart and soul of this Celtics team. He’s a defensive anchor down low, and offensively he can still put up big numbers, evidenced by his 28-14 in Game 6 against the Hawks. The Sixers have struggled to defend big men all season, and that continued in Round 1, with Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer enjoying long stretches of success at times. If the Sixers continue to struggle to get defensive rebounds and defend opposing big men, Garnett could have a huge series and win the series for the Celtics.
DS: For the Celtics I’d say Rajon Rondo, he’s the motor of that Boston offense and keeps them competitive. Rondo should be able to create havoc against Philadelphia’s young back court.
5. How’s the series going to end? Also, what’s one bold prediction you have for the series?
SO: Celtics in 5. As much as I enjoyed getting out of the first round, I realize that getting out of the second has much lower odds. The Celtics, while banged up, still have more offensive firepower as well as a better defense than we have. The Sixers have younger legs but the Celtics just have more talent. Usually, talent wins out. I hope I’m wrong. Bold prediction would be that Kevin Garnett starts a scuffle with Spencer Hawes and hurls some sort of Republican-based insults his way in a post-game presser (wait, that’s not bold at all, this could totally happen).
DN: Sixers in 6. Maybe I’m all alone on this one. And that’s okay. Like I said in an earlier question, Sixers can beat the Celtics. Can they do it 4 times in the span of 1-2 weeks? I think so. Look, the only way Sixers win this thing is if they want it. They have to have intensity, heart, and desire each game. They’re going to have to suck it up, and be physical. We need to see 20-9 Sixers and more. Is all of this possible? I think so. The series won’t be easy. Definitely a game 6 at least in this series. Sixers must get to the line, make their free throws, and get out on the break. Obvious statements but Sixers have been known to abandon what works. Call me crazy, but I really think Sixers can and will pull this off. A bold prediction would be Jodie Meeks hits his shots again and makes a big difference for the series.
SH: I’ll take the Celtics in 6. The Sixers had success against the C’s in the regular season, but I think a large part of that was due to the Sixers’ depth and young legs and the Celtics being old and dealing with the compressed regular season schedule. I think Rajon Rondo will outplay Jrue Holiday on both ends of the floor, and Kevin Garnett will have a big series. Andre Iguodala will need to shut down Paul Pierce defensively to have any shot for the Sixers to win this series. My bold predictions are that the Sixers will win 2 games in Boston (Game 1 and Game 5) and that Evan Turner will be the best player for the Sixers in this series, averaging 14 PPG, 7 RPG, and 5 APG. Enjoy the series, everyone! Go Sixers.
DS: I’m going to have to say Celtics in 6. The Sixers will make this a competitive and low-scoring series, with a bold prediction being that Spencer Hawes continuing his outstanding play.