The Celtics were unable to finish the Sixers off in Game 4 in Philly and so the series shifts back to Boston for another close out opportunity. The Celtics haven’t lost a game at the Garden in these playoffs and they need to keep that trend going. The Celtics gave the Sixers a bit of confidence in game 4 and they need to come out strong in this one and wipe every bit of that confidence out.
Brett Brown made an adjustment by inserting TJ McConnell into the starting lineup in place of Robert Covington. The Sixers also went inside more and shot fewer 3 pointers. Brad Stevens will need to make adjustments to counter those moves. The Celtics have shut down the Sixers on the perimeter but now they need to keep them out of the paint as well.
I’m listing the same starters as have started the first 4 games for the Celtics but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jaylen Brown back in the starting lineup if his hamstring is healed enough. Larkin’s injury leaves the Celtics with just Rozier and Smart at the point and Brad may want to bring Smart off the bench to back up at point. I’m assuming that the Sixers will go with the same starters that they did in Game 4 since it worked out pretty well for them in that game.
Shane Larkin hit a very hard pick set by Joel Embiid in Game 4 and left the game with a shoulder injury. He was scheduled for tests on Tuesday and has been diagnosed with a sprained shoulder. He is listed as out for this game and possibly the foreseeable future as well. The Sixers still have no injuries listed. Marcus Smart came up shaking his surgically repaired thumb at one point but returned to the game and should be fine for this one.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Shane Larkin (shoulder) out
Probable 76ers Starters
Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot
Terry Rozier vs Ben Simmons
Rozier will likely not be covering Simmons. Al Horford and Marcus Morris mostly have tried to keep Simmons in check. Rozier will likely shift over to guard TJ McConnell who had a big game in Game 4 and also held Rozier to just 11 points. He needs to play much better on both ends of the court in this game.
Aron Baynes vs Joel Embiid
Aron Baynes has done a good job of frustrating Joel Embiid so far. He has ended up tired by the end of games after having to fight Baynes for everything he gets inside. He had 15 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4 and did a whole lot of trash talking.
Al Horford vs Dario Saric
Saric had a big Game 4 with 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. He is averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. Whether is it Al or Marcus Smart or Marcus Morris or Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum who guards him, they have to do a better job of staying with him as he has been a big factor and underrated for the Sixers in this series.
Also Worth Mentioning
Celtics Bench vs Sixers Bench
The Celtics bench took another hit with Larkin going out with a shoulder injury. Once again, it is next man up. In spite of having Larkin for just 1 minute in Game 4, the Celtics reserves out scored the Sixers reserves 28-18. The Celtics need each player who comes in off the bench to contribute on both ends of the court.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins Championships, no doubt about it. The Celtics must play tough defense and limit the Sixers scoring if they want to win. They have done a good job of limiting their 3 point shooters. In Game 4, the Sixers made an effort to go inside more and the Celtics allowed way too many layups and easy shots inside. They have to play better defense both inside and out in this game.
Rebound - The Celtics need to crash the boards as so far they have been out-rebounded by the Sixers. The Sixers are first in the playoffs with 49.3 rebounds per game while the Celtics are 9th with 42.8 rebounds per game. The Celtics have been out-rebounded 148-127 so far in the series. In Game 4, they outrebounded the Celtics by 11 and 16-6 on the offensive end. The Sixers are first in the playoffs with 15.9 second chance points per game. The Celtics have to work very hard to beat the Sixers to rebounds to avoid giving them extra points on second chance baskets.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and go after all the loose balls, and aggressively go after rebounds, and be aggressive on defense. They also have to be aggressive in taking the ball into the paint. After the Celtics were whistled for 12 fouls in the second quarter to just 1 foul for the Sixers in the quarter, they played tentatively. They weren’t as aggressive in driving or on defense. They have to stay aggressive and be the team that plays harder and wants it more the entire game.
Move the Ball and Stay Focused - The Celtics need to move the ball. They play best when they share the ball and find the open man. They had just 16 assists in Game 4 while the Sixers had 24 assists. When the Celtics try to do too much individually, it rarely works out well. They also have to stay focused and take their time and not rush their shots or go away from the game plan. No Hero Ball!!! Play as a team on both ends of the court.
Take Care of the Ball - In Game 4, the Celtics turned the ball over 15 times to just 8 for the Sixers. They have to move the ball, but they also have to make careful passes and not get careless when they handle the ball. The Sixers had a 16-3 advantage in points off turnovers. The Celtics have to be careful with their passes and dribbling and not give the Sixers extra possessions by turning the ball over.
Play Hard 48 Minutes - The Sixers will come in with some confidence from their win in Game 4. They are going to come out and play hard and try to get a jump on the Celtics as they did in Game 2 when they got off to a 22 point lead. The Celtics can’t allow that to happen. They have to come out playing hard and not let the Sixers get anything going and they have to play hard right up until the final buzzer.
Home Game - So far, the Celtics have won their home games and will once again need to get a boost from the loud home crowd. Young players often are rattled on the road and the Celtics faithful in the crowd need to make sure they are loud and keep the pressure on the Sixers young players.
Confidence Factor - The Celtics allowed the Sixers to gain some confidence with their play in Game 4. They now have a win and will come into this game thinking they can get another one. The Celtics need to keep the Sixers from getting any momentum in this game and they have to crush any confidence they may have coming in. If the Sixers get a win in this game, their confidence will be sky high and who knows what will happen as they go back to Philly for Game 5.
Officiating - The officiating is always an X-Factor. After watching Scott Foster and Tony Brothers work in Game 4, there should be no doubt that the officiating can change a series. In the 2nd quarter of Game 4, the Celtics were called for 12 fouls while the Sixers were called for just 1. They let the Sixers be much more physical but called the Celtics for minor contact. The Celtics went into half time with 4 players in foul trouble. The Celtics were tentative the rest of the game as they tried to avoid further foul trouble. Hopefully the Celtics will get more of a fair shake in this game.
James Capers - This is Capers first game with the Celtics in these playoffs. In the past he has been good in some and bad in some. He doesn’t have a lot of controversy around him, however. Both teams are 6-4 over their last 10 games with Capers. His home W/L record this season is 49-17. He is 7-4 when calling games when the home team is the underdog. He calls an average of 41.3 fouls per game with 48% of those calls on the home team.
Tom Washington - Washington called Game 4 of the Bucks series. The Celtics lost that one but the officiating was decent in that game. As with many other refs he has been good in some games and bad in others but mostly he lets them play and there isn’t a lot of controversy around him either. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games with Washington while the Sixers are 6-4 in their last 10. His home W/L record is 42-22. He calls an average of 38.4 fouls per game with 48%% of those on the home team.
Zach Zarba - This is Zarba’s first playoff game with the Celtics. As with the other refs, sometimes he is good and sometimes he isn’t so good but there isn’t a lot of controversy surrounding him. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games with Zarba on the court while the Sixers are 2-8 in their last 10 games with Zarba. His home W/L record this season is 30-37. He calls an average of 37.6 fouls per game with 52.2% called on the home team.