The Philadelphia 76ers take on the Boston Celtics in Game 2 tonight. Will the events in Game 1 repeat themselves and result in an 0-2 deficit coming home to Philly for our Sixers, or will the Sixers steal game two on the road and come back even at one. Time will tell, but for now here’s 5 more things to watch for in Game 2
1. Getting some offense from Elton Brand and/or Thaddeus Young
Elton Brand played 15 minutes in Game 1 – by far his fewest in the postseason so far. He played so little because he had no jump shot to speak of – since Game 3 of the Chicago series, he simply hasn’t been hitting the midrange jumper. If he’s not hitting jumpers, he has no offensive game at this point in his career. So the Sixers, who are starved for offense, had to get him off the court. Brand is averaging just 7.4 points per game this postseason – he’ll need to get closer to his season’s average for the Sixers to have a chance this series.
Ditto for Thaddeus Young, the Sixers’ best bench player, who also has struggled this postseason (even before injury). Young is putting up less than 7 points per game and shooting just 40% from the floor in the playoffs. Provided he plays in Game 2, he needs to score to offset the mismatches the Celtics can provide on the other end of the floor.
Someone did pick up the offensive slack in Game 1. That would be Lavoy Allen, who hit 5 of his 7 shot attempts and finished with 12 points in 20 minutes. He also played well defensively – he’s near immovable in the post as Kevin Garnett found out – so his time was awfully productive. But expecting a rookie who played sparingly throughout the season to remain a consistent offensive threat is too much. He can just as likely disappear as produce as much as he did again.
2. Who can score on Avery Bradley?
Short answer: no one, at least not consistently
Longer answer: Well, the idea is that Avery Bradley can shut anyone down individually but can only defend one position at a time. However, he can defend multiple opponents throughout the game, which can mess those multiple players up. So was the story of Game 1. He turned Jrue Holiday into a player whose name rhymes with “Kiss Quhon” in the first half, then Holiday struggled to ever really make an impact later. His primary assignment changed in the second half to Evan Turner, who scored just four points in that half. He’s good at that whole defense thing.
Bradley, I’d imagine, will follow a similar path in Game 2. He’ll start on Holiday, who would probably give the defense more fits than Turner if left alone. Then, if Turner plays well, you’ll see the assignments change. The Sixers have to gameplan for this to happen, knowing that at least one of their primary options will be tangled up by Bradley’s excellent defense.
As you can probably tell, I really like Bradley’s game.
3. Kevin Garnett’s jumper
The Sixers seem to be living with Kevin Garnett‘s perimeter game. From CSNPhilly.com’s John Finger:
If Garnett wants to keep shooting those long two-pointers, the Sixers are going to let him.
“He’s making those jump shots,” Sixers’ coach Doug Collins said after Sunday’s practice at the TD Garden. “He has one foot on the three-point line and he’s making jump shots. My hat is off to him.”
The Sixers’ defensive philosophy is simple: they will give up shots in the “yard,” the area between the paint and the three-point line more readily. At the end of the day, Collins reasons, teams get beat in the paint and on three-pointers. The odds are in their favor that they won’t get beat on long two-pointers.
So if the Celtics want to chuck up those long twos, they’re going to get them.
First, consider how backwards this whole philosophy is for us (in that the Sixers understand the long two is a bad shot but take so many of them as to look normal for the pre-three pointer NBA). Then understand that normally, this decision makes sense. But then understand that Kevin Garnett isn’t a normal player – he shot 46% from mid range during the regular season. He shot higher from mid range than most of the Sixers’ roster shot overall. And if we’re willing to give him room, that percentage will only go up. If the Sixers are willing to still give him these shots, then they have to absolutely shut down the three point threats in Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.
I will note that I do agree with the philosophy on the whole – Garnett’s just a really good mid range jump shooter who more often than not will make the opponent pay for executing that strategy. If he could only take one step further back…
4. Fast break points
I am repeating myself here, but the Sixers absolutely need to run and convert on fast break opportunities when they are available. The Celtics actually had more fast break points than the Sixers in Game 1, 14-13. The Sixers need at least 20 tonight, I believe. I have little faith that the halfcourt offense will work as well as it did on Saturday.
5. Free throws
The Sixers have actually gotten to the line at a decent clip this postseason. They got there one more time than Boston in Game 1, but missed six attempts. The final score was decided by one point. These freebies, they are important.
Thad missed 3 of his 6. Brand missed both of his. More importantly though, Jrue and Evan combined for only 4 attempts. Combined they attempted roughly 10 free throws a game in the first round – they need to get back to that level of aggression. Preferably, the one not covered by Avery Bradley will be the primary aggressor.