Friday, May 11, 2012
Eastern Conference Semifinals: Celtics-76ers Preview
Yes, the Sixers haven't been good in a while (this is the first time they've reached the second round since 2003) but Philly is unquestionably one of the most passionate and knowledgeable fan bases in the U.S. Plus, with both the Bruins and Flyers out of the NHL playoffs and the Phillies & Red Sox each off to awful starts, expect everybody to jump on their respective bandwagons and focus on this series that will send the winner to a likely date with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Other than it going seven games, things really couldn't have broken better for the Celts with the No. 8 Sixers taking out the top-seeded Bulls in the first round. Thanks to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah's injuries, Chicago had plenty of heart but not enough reliable players in crunch time. Many will assume that Boston will roll over Philly but I'm here to tell you that the Celtics should win but this series is going to be a grind.
Don't put much stock in regular season results but Philadelphia blew out Boston twice at home while the Celtics smoked the Sixers on Easter Sunday at the Garden.
The C's eliminated the Hawks in six mostly gross games and I expect this to be even more of a defensive battle since both of these squads have lockdown defenses, something that Atlanta didn't possess. From Games 3-6 (no Rose and Noah), the Sixers held the Bulls to 82 points or less. Likewise, the Celtics never allowed more than 87 points to the Hawks in the entire series.
Philadelphia's biggest strengths (depth and youthful energy) will also be their downfalls if they go out in this round. The storyline has been beaten to death but in case you haven't heard it, the Sixers lack a true closer. Andre Iguodala is a nice player, Elton Brand, Lou Williams, Thadeus Young, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes all have their moments but none of them are stars. That means whenever Philly has a close, late-game situation, they don't have one or two guys to go to (what the NBA is all about).
This isn't the best matchup for the Celtics but with home-court advantage and a wealth of playoff experience, they should be able to get by the Sixers. I can see Rajon Rondo having a big series and if Kevin Garnett is anything like he was in Game 6 vs. Atlanta, this could be over quickly (like 5 games). I'm not into predictions but as a Celtics fan, I'm very excited about the possibilities for this team to make a deep run in the 2012 NBA playoffs.
Game 1 is tomorrow night (8 p.m., TNT) at TD Garden, Game 2 is Monday (7 p.m., TNT) at the Garden before it shifts to Philly's Wells Fargo Center for Game 3 on Wednesday (7 p.m., TNT) and Game 4 on Friday (TBA, TNT).
However long this lasts, I know I will enjoy it since I have a bunch of great friends I met in college that hail from the Philadelphia area. Chirping, trolling and trash-talking should be at a fever pitch for the next week to two weeks.