For game 7, here at The Sixer Sense we are doing yet another roundtable question session. I’ve asked our staff members to chime in on some questions I had about the series, and I answered them as well.
Danny Solis’ answers will be added soon.
1. What’s one thing that you learned in this series?
Sean O’Connor (@SixerSense): That the universe works in wondrous ways, and nothing makes sense anymore?
But in all seriousness, I have learned that injuries and luck are so important in short playoff series, especially between two evenly matched teams. Elton Brand struggled with injuries early in the series, but between extended bench stretches and time, he was able to recover. Meanwhile, the Celtics have just enough healthy bodies for a team picture, but not enough to put together a decent rotation around their Big 3 (and by Big 3, I mean Rondo, Pierce, and Garnett), especially with Ray Allen’s bone spurs rendering him useless and Avery Bradley’s shoulder putting him out.
Dante Nelson (@DanteWrites): Besides the fact that the national media seems to want the Celtics to win (I’m looking at you ESPN), one thing I learned was that…well I’m not sure what I’ve learned. From a player standpoint, I knew what these guys were capable of. Everything that was going on was expected for the most part. But seriously, I could hear the excitement of the commentators when the Celtics made a big play. And then an awkward silence or disbelief when the Sixers hung right in there with the Celtics. “Trying to get rid of those pesky Sixers” and “Celtics finally playing their game”. Why can’t it be that the Sixers are actually a good team too? In all my years, I’ve never really noticed how…one sided they can be. On the other hand, I only pay attention to the playoffs if the Sixers are involved. When the sixers are eliminated or don’t qualify, I don’t follow the playoffs. So it’s not like I hear it for each team every year. I’m strictly a Sixers fan like that. So there’s something I’ve learned.
Kyle Bright (@KBreezy137): Kevin Garnett’s midrange jumper is really, really good. I pretty much already knew that from watching KG over the years, but this series has been unbelievable. He has made so many shots from that 20 foot range, which really helps Boston because the Sixers defense is partially predicated on forcing the other team to take midrange jumpers and not getting threes or layups. Nearly every time KG gets that shot, he has knocked it down.
Stephane Hardinger (@GoingHard_inger): Something I learned this series: Lavoy Allen can be a player in this league. After an ultimately inconsequential regular season and first round series against Chicago, the man who was ranked 500 (last in the league) in #NBARank this summer has untethered himself from the bench against the Celtics and averaged just over 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 block per game this series in 23.5 minutes per game. He’s also playing the best defense out of any Sixer on Kevin Garnett. He’s a restricted free-agent after the season, and it would be wise to bring him back after the season. However, it figures to be at a significant raise to his current salary.
2. After watching the first 6 games, who do you think Boston’s best player is?
SO: Kevin Garnett, by far. His defense, except maybe a bit in Game 6 (when the Sixers more than doubled up the C’s in the points in the paint category), has single-handedly made the Sixers unable to convert a decent amount of scoring opportunities in the paint. He has also been the most consistent source of offense on a team that struggled to score before the playoffs started and continued to struggle up until now. KG may be a bit infuriating to Celtics fans because of his refusal to take a step back on some of his shots (no doubt he would be at least a decent three point shooter – he has the range), but he hits those shots so often they can’t complain too much – overall he’s shooting greater than 51% in the playoffs, almost exclusively on jumpers. Add in nearly 11 rebounds per game in the two series, and I don’t think there’s a greater argument for anyone else.
DN: I’ll go with Rajon Rondo. Seems like when he’s not playing well, the team isn’t playing well. And, to me, that’s a great way to tell who your number one guy is. We Sixer fans should know that sometimes your best player doesn’t have to be your best scorer. Exhibit A: Andre Iguodala.
KB: At this point it would seem to be Rajon Rondo. Despite being outplayed by Jrue Holiday in game six, he has been key to Boston’s wins, not picking up less than 13 assists in any game besides the aforementioned game six. He’s also scored in the double digits four of the games, which is really just a bonus with his distribution ability.
SH: After watching Games 1-6 of this series, the Celtics’ best player (against the Sixers, at least) has been and will continue to be Kevin Garnett. The veteran forward has averaged 20 points and almost 11 rebounds in 36 MPG this series, and has been the only consistent offensive player for the Celtics. He’s been knocking down his mid-range jumpers and playing good defense (with a little help from the officials) on the other end of the floor. With Paul Pierce clearly hobbled and Rajon Rondo playing inconsistently throughout the series, Garnett has been the Celtics’ best player. On any given night, Rondo has the potential to be their best player, but strictly judging on what we’ve seen thus far in the series, it has to be Kevin Garnett.
3. What’s one thing the Sixers must do in order to win in Boston?
SO: Make their shots, both from the line and on the perimeter. I can’t imagine the Sixers will benefit from any calls from the officials, in a hostile environment for a Game 7 against a team many thought should have won the series by now. In Game 5, the officiating was so lopsided it took what should have been a decently close game and turned it into a blowout. But the Sixers didn’t do any favors then – they turned the ball over often and failed to convert at the rim in the face of those no-calls. Which makes it so much more important that they hit their shots, because they should probably expect those no-calls again, and they’ll have to adjust by taking more jumpers and, when they actually get a call or two they need to take advantage. Obviously, for this shooting-deprived team, that’s not a good thing. But it will have to happen if we want to move on.
DN: Play their game. It’s game 7. You’re on the road*. Emotions will be high if they weren’t high before. The Celtics have been in situations like this. They’re mentally ready and tough. Sixers are young and really just inexperienced. They have to focus on their game. Tune everything else out. All they gotta do is play for 48 minutes.
*Editor’s note: I was so hoping Dante was going into Hubie Brown mode here, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
KB: To win in Boston the Sixers have to attack inside. When the Sixers are getting close-range shots and getting to the line, they’re offense is infinitely better than when they are taking midrange jumpers all the time (They took the second most in the league this year, behind only the woeful Bobcats). Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday really need to be the ones adhering to this aggressive mentality, as both need to be aggressive and decisive to be as effective as possible.
SH: The Sixers need to contain Kevin Garnett and get transition opportunities to win in Boston. Jrue Holiday has been playing good defense on Rajon Rondo, who has struggled from the field in each of the Boston losses this series, and All-Defense team snub Andre Iguodala has locked down Paul Pierce. With Ray Allen hobbled, that leaves Kevin Garnett as the only consistent scoring threat for the Celtics. To stop him, they need to throw a consistent diet of Lavoy Allen and Elton Brand at him (and for the love of God, less Spencer Hawes) and also step out on him more and avoid giving him open looks at mid-range jumpers. They also need to push the pace and get transition baskets. The Celtics can’t keep up with the Sixers in a fast paced game, and Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, and the rest of the crew are dangerous in transition.
4. What’s one thing the Celtics must do to defend their home court?
SO: They need to get something, anything, from a non Rondo-Pierce-Garnett player. Bass, Allen, Pietrus, Dooling, and Stiemsma/Hollins have been negligible for the majority of the series (Bass and Stiemsma in Game 5 being the lone, notable exception). I doubt Rondo struggles like he did last game, and Pierce and Garnett have been to this rodeo a few times themselves. They should play well. They need those other guys to join them. Whether it’s Pietrus stretching the floor or Dooling doing an Avery Bradley impersonation, they’ll need a big contribution from a non Big-3 player.
DN: For the Celtics, get inside of the Sixers’ heads. Celtics are old and tired. Only way they win now is if they win the mental battle. The minutes have taken their toll of the Celtics’ big 3. If the younger Sixers are allowed to focus, Celtics are in for a long night. In the end, i think game 7 comes down to more of a mental/will power type thing for both teams.
KB: Boston needs to protect the ball. In games three and five, their comfortable wins, Boston only had seventeen combined turnovers. In games two, four and six, they gave the ball away 17, 16, and 17 times. Notice a pattern? When they let the Sixers out in transition, they eliminate the ability to defend in the halfcourt, probably their biggest strength. It also allows the Sixers to not have to try to score in the halfcourt, probably their biggest weakness.
SH: For the Celtics to win, they have to force the Sixers into taking long twos. The Sixers are at their best offensively in the half-court when they are attacking the rim, leading to layups, free throws, or open three pointers on the drive and kick. They are at their worst offensively in the half-court when they settle for contested mid-range jumpers and long twos, the worst shot in basketball. If the Celtics can force the Sixers into taking these bad shots as well as keep them from running out in transition, they’ll be playing in the ECF next week.
5. Which team wins Game 7?
SO: My heart screams the Sixers. My gut and mind say the Celtics. And my eyes say Tylenol. I’ll go ahead and pick the Sixers 83-78, because why not be optimistic, and Tylenol too.
DN: This one is tough because I really think Sixers will win but i also feel they will have one of their famous last minute collapses to lose the game. Both teams have not played at their best. There is room to grow. Both teams are injured. But I have to go with the Sixers. I just have to. I said before that Sixers would win this series in 6 games. I’m going to stick by the Sixers winning. So Sixers will win game 7.
KB: I’m gonna completely homer this and go Sixers. At home, with a well rested, experienced team, Boston really should win this game seven. Still, the Sixers have fought well this postseason. They’ve caught breaks with injuries, but they have still gone out and taken advantage. A legit chance at the conference finals doesn’t come around every day, so hell, Sixers are going to go to Beantown and win game 7.
SH: I have to take the Celtics. In a Game 7, I just don’t see how the Celtics will lose with their home-court advantage. The teams are fairly evenly-matched, but superstars tend to elevate their play in big games and Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo all have the potential to explode and lead their team to victory. I’ll take the Celtics in an 86-79, hard-fought battle at the Garden. Hopefully I’m wrong, enjoy the game and go Sixers!