Okay, the Atlanta Hawks are officially in the rear view mirror, and the Philadelphia 76ers lay straight ahead. They have a coach who’s just won his first playoff series since 1989 – ironically, with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls – and they have a group of players who like to push the ball at every opportunity. There is a compressed playoff schedule to deal with, which seems to favor young legs, and there’s no secret that our Boston Celtics are hurting. Paul Pierce is lugging that bum knee, and Ray Allen is dealing with a bone spurs flare up. All that seems in the Celtics’ favor is home court advantage, which, if Boston isn’t careful, could be gone at some point late on Saturday evening.
Speaking of the schedule for this series, let’s take a look at the road Boston must travel if it is to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Again, our Celtics have home court by virtue of winning the Atlantic Division crown. Who would have thought this would have meant so much in the second round? Even without Rose, the Bulls were the heavy favorites to win and advance, but here we are with a Sixers-Celtics matchup in round two. The games look like this:
The second round schedule has been announced and it will be a tighter one than the first. The Sixers and Bulls had 13 days to play 6 games. Against the Boston Celtics, there’ll have 12. Not a major difference, sure, but with a tired, OLD Boston team, that may be something to watch later in the series. Here’s the schedule:
Game One @ Boston: Saturday 5/12, 8:00 on TNT.
Game Two @ Boston: Monday 5/14, 7:00 on TNT.
Game Three @ Philly: Wednesday 5/16, 7:00 on TNT.
Game Four @ Philly: Friday 5/18, ????? on ESPN.
Game Five @ Boston: Monday 5/21, ????? on ?????? <—– tune in!
Game Six @ Philly: Wednesday 5/23, ????? on ?????? <—–seriously, watch!
Game Seven @ Boston: Saturday, 5/26, ????? on ????? <—–uh.
Don’t think our Celtics will be taking this game lightly. The most lopsided loss they have sustained since the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007 occurred on March 7. Boston was simply no match for the 76ers that night more than two months ago, falling behind by 37 points before being handed an embarrassing 103-71 defeat. Roughly two weeks later, the C’s returned to the scene of the crime and were roughed up, 37-17, in the third quarter on the way to a 99-86 loss.
One would have to think that those losses would serve as motivation for the Celtics in general, and one Mr. Kevin Garnett in particular. There’s no question KG will be fired up and ready to play, but whether his body cooperates is another matter entirely. Garnett played with a fire in his belly in Game 6 against the Hawks, scoring 28, pulling down 14 boards, blocking 5 shots and hitting the difference maker during crunch time. Let’s just hope that the Big Ticket has some gas left in the tank, because his defense will be key to keeping the Sixers in check.
And obviously, Garnett can’t do it alone. My guess is that Pierce will play in Game 1, but Allen may sit. Just my guess. Either way, players across the board need to step up. Being disciplined on both ends of the court, protecting the basketball, maintaining a high level of consistency…those are the things that will lead the Celtics to victory. A dip in any of those areas and Philly could very well steal Game 1.