Okay pops...to the second round the clerics go!— Austin Rivers (@AustinRivers25) May 11, 2012
The Clerics are heading to the second round against the Sixers. Gotta love Auto Correct.
It was interesting to see the difference between the end of our game and the finish at Wells Fargo Center. I understand they're an #8 seed beating a #1, but the Bulls were without their two best players and the Sixers celebrated like they had won the Larry O'Brien. At the Garden, after Pierce canned those two free throws and the clock ran out on Teague's desperation heave, there wasn't a lot of fanfare. There were respectful hugs and handshakes with the Hawks and it was over. KG even ducked out before TNT or CSN could get an interview after his he turned back the clock on Atlanta and its owner. They've been here before and there's only one goal in mind: to be playing in June.
I'm betting Doc's already going over film and Rondo's waiting with baited breath for the game plan, but I just don't know what either can gather from the regular season tape against Philly. The Celtics were 1-2 against the Sixers with the home team winning all the games in blowout fashion. The loss in early March was the back end of a back-to-back and the third game in four nights where the two games prior both went into overtime. Two weeks later, they loss another game in Philadelphia on another back end of a back-to-back; they had the lead early but when Mickael Pietrus went down with a very serious concussion in the second quarter, it sucked life out of the team and they folded in the second half.
Even without Rose and Noah, you have to give Doug Collins and the Sixers credit for beating a very good defensive team. After Game 1, the Bulls struggled to put up points and Philly scored just enough to complete the upset. How'd they do it? Free throws. In the regular season, the Sixers were dead last in free throws attempted at 18.2 per game with the Celtics not far behind at 19.8. However, in the post season, they're near the top at 26.8 with the Celtics close to their regular season average at 19.4. They don't do it with a Lebron/Kobe/Pierce type that benefits from size and reputation. Their three dynamic guards--Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday, and Evan Turner--play aggressive and don't settle for jump shots. This is a startling statistic: the Sixers beat the Bulls in six games shooting 40% from the field. If you told Thibs that he'd hold Philly to 40%, he'd take that in a heart beat and I'm sure Doc would, too. As long as the Celtics can continue limiting turnovers, they should be able to prevent easy buckets for the Sixers on the other end.
On paper, the Sixers seem like an easier opponent than Atlanta. Their size in the back court doesn't pose as much of a match-up nightmare that Joe Johnson proved to be against our smaller guards. Hawes and Brand should be less daunting than Horford and Smith were in Games 5 and 6. Iguodala is always a wild card, but he'll have to be consistently good if Philly has a chance to steal home court advantage. As bad as our offense has looked at times, I just don't see the Celtics having as much trouble putting up points as the Bulls did.
Ultimately, the biggest hurdles they face might be health and the schedule. We know that Game 1 is on Saturday night and Game 2 on Monday. That gives little time to rest Paul Pierce and Mickael Pietrus' knees, Ray's ankles, Avery's shoulder, and KG's hip. I don't get the NBA sometimes. Well, a lot of times. How do two teams (Miami and Indiana) that won their first round match-up on Wednesday start their series on Sunday, but two teams (Boston and Philly) who closed out on Thursday are right back at it on Saturday? I get that you want to put Lebron on Sunday primetime, but come on. It can't always be about TV ratings. Maybe the NBA will throw us a bone and schedule Game 3 on Friday, but probably more likely Thursday. And maybe it doesn't matter; Boston has done so well playing through adversity this season that days off might be its Kryptonite. We saw how rusty they looked in their first game in Atlanta.