Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sixers @ Celtics Game 7 Preview 1/2

The Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics are ending their second round series tonight. It has been a very tough series for each team, the Sixers have shown a lot of resiliency and Boston doesn't want to end their season and maybe the big three era tonight.  I talked to Sean O'Connor, he blogs for the Philadelphia 76ers site The Sixer Sense  and was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

 Did you ever expected the Sixers to be one game from reaching the conference finals?

Not at all before the playoffs began. The Sixers had limped into the postseason, nearly completing an epic collapse after a strong start to the season. Before the first round, I was just hoping the Sixers can extend the series versus Chicago past 4 games.  Of course, we know what happened there, with the injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah creating an opportunity for the Sixers to move on. Once that happened, I knew the Sixers would be in a dog fight with the Celtics. While I personally thought the series wouldn't get this far, I did expect a close, competitive series throughout, and so far that's occurred.

 What has impressed you more about the Sixers in this round?

Their resiliency. It's hard not to get down when shots aren't falling or when close games don't fall your way, but it hasn't gotten this team down. When the Sixers lost Game 1 down the stretch, they executed well enough in the same situation in Game 2 to come away with a victory. When they were blown out in Game 3, they came back to win at home going away in Game 4. When their shots aren't falling or the calls aren't going their way, they hustle back on defense and give it their all. I know it doesn't sound that impressive when referring to adults, but compared to many NBA teams and compared to even themselves from earlier this year they've handled adversity exceptionally well. 

The Sixers have never had the series lead , what makes you believe they will do that tomorrow?

Well, the stats do not favor the Sixers at all, that's for sure. But then again, this team has been defying odds the entire season, so winning tonight would be no different. 

What are the keys for Philly to get a game 7 win at the TD Garden?

Shooting the ball well, both from the floor and the line. During Game 5 in Boston, the Celtics were able to pull away due to an aggressive, physical defense that the Sixers could not score on. The physical nature of the defense, combined with lax whistles, pretty much wrapped up the Sixers. And a veteran team at home, I surmise, will get the same benefit of the doubt from the whistle-blowers in Game 7. Thus, the Sixers will have to make their fair share of jumpers to score on the Boston defense, and when they actually get to the foul line they have to convert at a higher percentage than they did in Game 6. 

Thoughts on Lavoy Allen?

 I was one of a few NBA-related people that knew much of Lavoy Allen before he came into the league. Having graduated from the same college Lavoy attended (Temple) and having seen many of their games, I thought I knew what his skills were and how he could adjust to the NBA. I was surprised at the selection but knew he had 3 things going for him: a decent jumper for a big, an unselfish attitude (which many confused for the lack of a motor), and a strong defensive background. I figured the first two could translate fairly well to the NBA game, the third was a bit of a mystery. Between the draft and training camp, Lavoy became noticeably bigger and stronger (he was much thinner in college) so that's something that maybe couldn't have been predicted, and that's helped him become a rotation player. With his newly found strength, he has become immovable in the post, which is kind of ridiculous for a guy his size. Otherwise, he had all the talents an NBA role playing big would need (in the Udonis Haslem model), he just needed to put all of them together.
Also, this is a good advertisement for him in free agency this summer. The Sixers strangely only signed him for one year, and he'll be a restricted free agent.

Jrue Holiday, has been the leading scorer in 2 of the 3 Philadelphia wins against Boston, he’s the one guy that has to play well for Philly to win.  Do you also feel that way?

Definitely. It's no secret that the Sixers struggle to find offense, and he's the best offensive player the Sixers have.

Lou Williams has been on a terrible slump lately, why has been the main reason for it?

 I can't pinpoint anything, mainly because Lou Williams always plays the same way - how well he plays just depends on whether or not he's hitting his shots. His shot selection is always questionable, and that's why Philly fans have a love-hate thing with him. I will point out, though, that the Sixers have performed significantly better with Lou on the floor during this series and that he suffered a back injury during the Chicago series. He might not be doing great, but the squad seems to be doing alright when he plays (probably because he's not Evan Turner, who has played even worse).

Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo have been the most dangerous Celtics in this round, how will Philly limit them?

The Sixers have basically told Garnett that he can have 20 footers whenever he wants them - they just want to keep him out of the paint. Elton Brand and Lavoy Allen have taken the task of battling Garnett on the blocks and have tried to do everything possible to keep him from getting the basketball close to the rim. When KG does get good position, though, the Sixers have been sending double teams to get the ball out of his hands. It worked in Game 6, as Garnett had 20 shot attempts and zero in the paint. I think if they continue to employ this strategy it will limit his effectiveness. 

Meanwhile, Rondo struggled in Game 6 with the Sixers pick-and-roll defense after abusing it in Game 5. The Sixers actually did a really solid job of first mixing up their pick-and-roll coverage packages, giving Rondo the difficult task of keeping up with what the Sixers were throwing at him. The rest of the team then got their hands into passing lanes, forcing some turnovers. I'm not sure this particular strategy will work again though, because Rondo will likely be expecting it and will know how to combat it. The best option for defending Rondo, to me, will always be forcing him to become a scorer. Keeping the ball in his hands and out of the hands of more efficient scorers will net the best result, and I imagine that's what the team will look to do. That's easier said than done, though.

Follow Sean on Twitter @SixerSense and follow me @JohnnyNBA and Like us on Facebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment