The 76ers and Celtics take the court in Boston, which hopefully isn’t dangerously slippery, for Game 5 tonight of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, each hoping to take the lead going into Philly for Game 6. The Sixers know they have to win again on the road to win the series, while the Celtics know that, by winning tonight, they guarantee themselves a chance at home to clinch the series, if necessary, and avoid a must-win on the road. The stakes are very high.
With that, the Sixers realize that now is not the time to play favorites or wait for people to get healthy or get their games rolling. If Elton Brand is too injured to play, don’t play him. If Spencer Hawes complains and moans and gets frustrated with himself, pull the plug on that experiment. If Evan Turner goes rogue again, end that operation. If Jodie Meeks misses open jumpers, yank him. It’s quite simple, and I think Doug realized this a bit in Game 4: he has to play the players that are playing well if he wants to win. In many cases, it’s the younger core players, like Turner, Jrue Holiday, and Lavoy Allen. In others, it might be Lou Williams, Meeks, and Hawes. He has to go with what’s working.
Speaking of what’s working, the starting five hasn’t worked all series. In Game 4, they fell behind 14-0 with their starters. And it continues a disturbing trend – the Sixers starting five has been their worst lineup, and as you can see on StatsCube, they are atrocious compared to Boston’s starters. Why we continue to stick with it remains a mystery. In the same StatsCube link, you can find how each lineup performs offensively and defensively, compared to team average.
Another lineup I’d like to point out is the one the Sixers primarily finished game 4 with. The lineup of Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Lavoy Allen worked very well statistically, and the coaches should probably look to that lineup more often.
Meanwhile, Boston has to recover from what amounted to a collapse, blowing an 18 point lead en route to a 9 point loss. Avery Bradley separated his shoulder again, and though he’ll play there’s a good chance it will happen again. Kevin Garnett had his worst game of the postseason, due to not having his jumper and an aggressive Sixers double team. Ray Allen was all kinds of awful. Rajon Rondo struggled for the most part in the second half. They’ll need some combination of those guys to play well.
The good news for them is that (a) the game is at home and (b) they had 2 days of rest. Both indicate that the Celtics have a good chance of bouncing back tonight.
Game 5 starts at 7:00 tonight. Tonight’s winner will likely win the series, so let’s hope for a Sixers win.