Boston Celtics (5-3, 1-1) at Philadelphia 76ers (5-3,1-1)
Wednesday, March 16
7:00 PM ET
Playoff Game #9 Road Game #4
Radio: WEEI, 97.5 The Fanatic
Wells Fargo Center
Referees: Derrick Stafford, Mike Callahan, Eric Lewis
Game Thread l Chat
The series now moves to the Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics have to pick up at least one game in Philly after giving up home court in the game 2 loss at home.
The Celtics have played very poorly so far in the first two games. They have struggled shooting. They have struggled on defense. They have gotten down by double digits in both games. They have seemed as though they were coasting though most of both games.
Injuries could be playing a part in both the shooting woes and in the lack of cohesion on many of the plays. Pierce is obviously not 100% and has been front rimming the majority of his shots. Bradley's shoulder has been painful and could be altering his shot as well as affecting his play. Pietrus has had hamstring problems. Ray's ankles have definitely been affecting his shot. For a player who has always been automatic from the line, he is shooting just 66% on his free throws in the playoffs so far.
Theories have ranged from guessing that the Celtics feel they can just flip the switch at any time to the fact that they are taking the Sixers for granted and feel they can beat them without 100% effort. Whatever the problem has been in the past, it has to be clear that the Celtics must give a better effort from the start and not just turn it on in the 4th quarter. Doc also has to take a share of the blame for some questionable decisions in game 2.
They have to be more focused, especially on the road. The Celtics are capable of winning in Philly and they are capable of playing much better than they have been so far in the series. The Sixers have been playing with great effort and the Celtics haven't matched it. Doc has said that he plans to change the offense to try to get Pierce going with more screens and posts for him. With the stakes getting higher, it's time for the Celtics to up their effort and take control of the series. If they don't, they could find themselves going back to Boston in a 1-3 hole.
SF: Paul Pierce ................................. ............PF Brandon Bass
Coach: Doc Rivers
Paul Pierce (knee) probable
Avery Bradley (shoulder) probable
Ray Allen (ankle) probable
Greg Stiemsma (feet) probable
Mickael Pietrus (hamstring) probable
Paul Pierce vs Andre Iguodala
Paul Pierce has struggled in the 2 games so far. Some of it may be Philly's defense, but most of it is the sprained MCL. For the first 2 games he shot just 25% from the field and an even worse 17% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need Pierce to step up and somehow find a way to be more efficient scoring or get to the line once again. Getting Pierce to be the Truth again is crucial to the Celtics winning this series.
Rajon Rondo vs Jrue Holiday
In game 1, Rondo ended up with a triple double, but he did almost nothing before halftime. It was like he woke up at the half and then took over the game. He seemed to turn it on and off once again in game 2. The Celtics need Rondo to be aggressive from start to finish if they hope to win this game. Rondo must control the pace of the game and has to run the Celtics offense and get them going. He also has to do a better job on defense as he allowed his man to beat him several times down the stretch in game 2.
Kevin Garnett vs Spencer Hawes
KG has been able to score around and over Hawes. He has been the Celtics only efficient scorer in the first 2 games. When KG goes to the bench, the Celtics have struggled to score and to rebound. If no one else steps up to help shoulder the load, they will need KG to continue his other-worldly play if they hope to win this game.
Key Off the Bench
Ray was warming up some in game 2. He was 7-14 from the field, although just 2-6 from beyond the arc, which was pretty good considering how everyone else was shooting. We need to do more than use Ray as a decoy. He can hit shots and we desperately need scoring. Hopefully he improves even more in this game.
Ryan Hollins/Greg Stiemsma
The Celtics 2 headed back up center off the bench has got to be more productive, especially on the glass. Hollins went over 13 minutes without grabbing a rebound. Stiemsma wasn't much better with 1 rebound in 11 minutes. The Celtics need both of them to box out and crash the boards. The Celtics were out rebounded 47-36 and the Celtics have 2 seven footers who should be able to get more than 1 board between them.
Williams is a shooter and as such, he's going to keep shooting. At times he will be crucial in helping the Sixers get a win and at other times he will shoot them out of the game. But, he is dangerous and the Celtics have to stay on him or he could have a big night.
Alllen has been the most effective of the Sixers bigs in guarding KG. He's also a big body that can box out and grab rebounds. He had 10 points and 8 rebounds in game 2 and hit a huge shot to help them get the win. The Celtics need to keep him off the boards and find a way for KG to get open even with Allen on him.
Keys to the Game
Defense - As always, defense is key to getting the win. The Celtics must play tough in your face defense from start to finish. They can't let themselves get caught up in a shoot out (especially when their shots aren't falling) and must concentrate on getting stops. The Celtics have allowed way too many easy baskets and tip ins so far in the series. They have to play better defense and not just in spurts.
Rebound - The Celtics were out-rebounded 47-36 in game 2. They have to crash the boards as a team. The team's bigs must go harder after rebounds. Rebounding is effort and desire. How else can you explain a 6'1" guard out rebounding all the bigs on the court? Every Celtic must have that desire and they have to put out the effort to win the battle of the boards. No rebounds - no win.
Run the Offense - The Celtics have been in a big offensive drought. Over the first two games they have struggled as a team to hit their shots. Many times they would either settle for a quick shot or they would settle for a desperation shot at the end of the shot clock. Other times they were missing wide open shots. The Celtics simply must hit their shots. They have to move the ball and run their offense to get the best shots possible. Unless they can somehow get their offense going, this is going to be a very tough series.
Effort and Focus - In the first two games it seemed as though the Celtics didn't get serious about playing until the final stretch. They made sloppy passes. Shot terribly. Didn't fight for rebounds and just generally looked sloppy and too laid back. The Celtics have to know that they can't just turn it on in games and pull out a win. They have to come in focused and put out a strong effort from start to finish. They also have to be focused on playing their game and not allow bad calls and no calls or rough play by the Sixers to get them sidetracked.
Be Aggressive- The Celtics have to be more aggressive in going after rebounds, going after loose balls, and driving to the basket, especially if their shots aren't falling once again. They also have to be more aggressive on defense. So far in the series, the Sixers have been more aggressive for much of the game and the Celtics just picked up their game at the end after getting down by 10 or more. The Celtics have to be aggressive from start to finish and go out and take this game because the Sixers definitely aren't going to give it to them.
Over his 23 NBA seasons, Derrick Stafford has worked 1,402 regular season, 99 playoff, and five Finals games. He was a member of the crew that officiated the 1997 McDonald’s Championship in Paris, the Legends All-Star Game in Orlando and the 2002 NBA All-Star Game. The 23-year NBA officiating veteran has also served twice on the Executive Board of the National Basketball Referee Association. Stafford has six years of CBA officiating experience, and he officiated Pro-Am basketball for six years. He also has seven years of collegiate officiating and 10 years of high school officiating experience in Georgia. Stafford is known to be quick to call technical fouls. Pat Riley and Stafford have a bit of bad blood between them. Back in 2003 when Riley was coaching, he accused Stafford of shouting "It's not about you." at Riley when Riley complained excessively about the calls. Stafford was suspended for 2 games as a result. Stafford was also fined as a result of a complaint that Lawrence Frank made when he was coach of the Nets. I found 4 other articles detailing complaints about Stafford for his actions or comments. It seems that Mr Stafford is a hot head who loves to give out quick technicals and lash out at players and coaches who question him. The Celtics are 2-2 this season and 6-4 over the last 10 games with Stafford on the court. Their regular season win was against Toronto and the Celtics shot 32 free throws to 20 for the Raptors. One loss was to the Lakers where the officiating was terrible and the Celtics shot just 5 (yes, that's FIVE) free throws to 20 for the Lakers. And you thought the 9 free throws against the Sixers in game 2 was bad. The second loss was to the Raptors where Toronto shot 31 free throws to 19 for the Celtics. He also officiated game 6 vs the Hawks where the Celtics shot 24 free throws to 10 for the Hawks. He is a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 40-18.
A veteran of 21 NBA seasons, Mike Callahan has officiated 1,265 regular season and 110 playoff games and 11 NBA Finals games. He was a member of the crew that officiated the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, 1994 Mexico Challenge and the 1996 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, Callahan spent three years officiating in the CBA, including the 1989 and 1990 CBA Finals. A member of the Cardinal O’Hara High School basketball team for four years, Callahan also coached the freshman basketball team after graduating. Callahan has run a clinic for referees called "Hoops4Heros" that benefits local fire departments and maintains strong ties to the Philadelphia community through his volunteer work with the Don Guanella School for developmentally disabled boys. Callahan is one of 4 refs to come out of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Pennsylvania. The other 3 are Joey Crawford, Ed Malloy and Tim Donaghy. Callahan was one of the referees mentioned in an incident in Tim Donaghy's book. He and other refs would regularly wager with his fellow refs over things like who would call the first foul, who could give out the first tech, etc. Makes you wonder what game they might be playing tonight. The Celtics are 9-1 over their last 10 games with Callahan officiating. They are 2-1 this season, including one preseason game against Toronto where the Raptors shot 36 free throws to 34 for the Celtics. The other win was against Detroit where the Celtics shot 19 free throws to 15 for the Pistons. He also called the loss in game 1 of the Hawks series where the Celtics shot 13 free throws to 21 for the Hawks and the officiating was terrible with several obvious bad calls, most of which were made by Marc Davis. He usually lets the teams play and isn't a tyrant with the whistle. He isn't influenced by the home crowd and has a home W/L record this season of 29-26.
This is Lewis' seventh season as an NBA official. He has 427 regular season games and six playoff games. Prior to the NBA he worked three seasons in the NBA Development League, where he worked the 2004 D-League Finals and the 2003 and 2004 Playoffs. He also has 8 years experience calling college games and 6 years officiating high school games. In the offseason he works with troubled teens. The Celtics are 2-3 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Lewis as a ref. One loss this season was at home vs Cleveland. The refs in that game were terrible and allowed hacking all night by the Cavs. They failed to call a very obvious foul on the Cavs against Pierce in crunch time. The Cavs took 20 free throws to 14 for the Celtics. The second loss was the Bulls where the officiating was again terrible. The Bulls shot 9 free throws before the Celtics got to the line even once and the Bulls shot 28 free throws to 18 for the Celtics. The 3rd loss was vs Philly where the Sixers shot 18 free throws to 13 for the Celtics and the refs pretty much let both teams play. One win was in OT vs the Knicks where the Knicks shot 26 free throws to 22 for the Celtics and the game was called fairly. e also officiated game 6 vs the Hawks where the Celtics shot 24 free throws to 10 for the Hawks. His home W/L record this season is 34-23.
Injuries and Officiating
Injuries have been affecting the Celtics. Can Pierce overcome the knee injury to have his first good game of the series? Can Bradley be effective with the shoulder? Can Pietrus and Allen continue to hit their shots?
As we saw in game 2, officiating can rear its ugly head and affect the outcome of the game. Will the Celtics get calls in this one? Hopefully the Celtics can get to the free throw line more than 9 times in this one. And, if they play up to their capability, it won't come down to a call at the end in this one.