By Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
For FOX Deportes
The Boston Celtics are in the unenviable position of being the favorite. There isn’t a pundit or prognosticator around that believes that the Philadelphia 76ers have a chance in hades to beat the Celtics tonight in the TD Garden. Boston is better than Philadelphia at virtually every single position on the floor, including at head coach, and yet we sit here at the precipice of a game 7 that no one anticipated.
Boston, all the pressure is on you tonight.
See, this has to be fun for the Sixers at this point, right? I mean, this is the young team that doesn’t know any better. They’ve never been here before, acting like a kid who is experiencing the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory for the first time. They frustrate the Celtics with illogical process and legs that don’t know years and years of fatigue. Playing hard is nothing for this group of kids, you see. Its all that Sixers head coach Doug Collins wants from them. Just play hard for 48 minutes, and lets see how the ball rolls for us.
Philadelphia, there’s no pressure on you at all tonight.
“We don’t want Philly to run, but we need to run, and the best way for us is to have a running game offensively and a slow-down game for them on the other end. In the games we’ve won, we’ve done that, and in the games we’ve lost, we haven’t been able to do it.” — Doc Rivers
Those are some interestingwords from the father of Ubuntu and Austin Rivers. It speaks to what this Celtics team is and isn’t. What makes the Celtics great is their ability as a unit to go all out and be in sync for periods of time in games. Its what makes them different than say a Miami or New York. They can all be in unison playing well through each other, instead of trading off greatness one at a time. Of course, those stretches of greatness usually wear off by the third quarter.
It’s something that I’ve noticed about this group of Celtics since “The Big Three” was formed four years ago. Boston will amass a nice 10-15 point lead and seeming on their way to a victory. Then, around the third quarter, the second unit will come in and the opposing team will chip away at the lead. In haste, the starters will come back in, bones stiff and bodies cold, and the lead will continue to dissipate.
All of a sudden its a game again and Boston’s totally out of whack.
That’s why Collins’ message to his young Sixers squad is so vital. Keep playing hard. Stay focused on the task at hand. Boston will inevitably come down from the cliff for a period of time, and if you’re ready to pounce then you can take the game. Laying in the weeds, if you will.
To a degree, its kind of sad to see Boston come to this. Their bench now looks like a wasteland of rejects and young players who are green to this moment, no pun intended. If this was a pick-up game, Boston would lay waste to Philly. They’re that good. Philadelphia has nothing for Rondo. Garnett had dominated down low. Pierce out-crafts a defending Iguodala. Allen runs Philly’s two-guards ragged on screen after screen. Rivers plays chess while Collins plays checkers.
Yet, Rivers chess pieces seem to be made of ice, and Collins’ checkers pieces are lit with an eternal flame. Can Philly melt away Boston’s final stand at home? We’ll find out shortly.