Every playoff game has significance. But when the Philadelphia 76ers host the Boston Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series on Friday night (8 p.m. ESPN), May 18, this will be a huge game for the Sixers.
After crushing the Sixers, 107-91, in Game 3, the Celtics have a 2-1 lead in the series. The Sixers will need to bounce back from their worst performance in the postseason. They can’t afford to dig themselves a big hole with another loss. The Celtics didn’t show their age in the last game. They exhibited great poise and playoff experience.
“This was a team (Boston Celtics) you could see coming in that did not want to be down 2-1 playing Game 4,” said Doug Collins, Sixers head coach. “They’ve been in these kinds of games. They know how important this swing game is to get that home court back and they played great.”
Boston has the home court advantage now in the series. After Friday’s game, the series will move to Boston for Game 5 on Monday, May 21. The Celtics played like they knew what time of year it is. Paul Pierce scored 24 points for the Celtics, but his two consecutive dunks in the first half let you know Boston wasn’t going anywhere.
The Celtics are an older team. There’s no question about that. Pierce is 34 years old. Ray Allen is 36. Kevin Garnett is 35. But they’ve all won an NBA championship. The Celtics won the NBA title in 2008. They also played for the league crown in 2010 before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. Although they don’t move as quickly as they used to on the floor, you can’t overlook the experience factor either.
This is a new territory for the Sixers. They’re still getting a feel for the postseason. It’s still a learning experience for them. The team is so young: Jrue Holiday, 21; Evan Turner, 23; Thaddeus Young, 23; Spencer Hawes, 24 and Lou Williams, 25. Lavoy Allen, Sixers rookie power forward from Temple, is 23. The Sixers most experienced players in the rotation are Andre Iguodala, 28 and Elton Brand, 33.
“I told our guys the NBA playoffs is about the ebb and flow of emotion,” Collins said. “I broadcasted a game in the NBA Finals in the United Center. It was Game 4, the Utah Jazz lost by about 50 to the (Chicago) Bulls. The Bulls were going to close out and win a championship at home in Game 5. Utah beat them and had to go to Game 6.
“That’s what the playoffs are about, the highs and lows. You have to navigate that. This is a new experience for us. Boston has been through that. They’ve been through losing home court and going and winning. This is all new for us. This is good that we’re going through this and we’re learning from this. Hopefully, we’re going to be a lot better in Game 4.”
The Sixers need to revisit what they did in the first two games of the series. It starts at the defensive end. The Sixers have to force some turnovers and get out in the open court where they can use their quickness.
They also have to do a better job of keeping Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo out of the lane. Rondo had a monster game tallying 23 points and 14 assists and just one turnover. His play opened things up for Pierce and Garnett, who had 27 points and 13 rebounds. The Sixers lone bright spots were Young who had 22 points and five rebounds off the bench and Holiday who chipped in with 15 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
This game should be very interesting. When a team is blown out in the playoffs, they usually come out with a lot of energy the next game. The first two games of this series were decided by one point with both teams grabbing a win. If this contest brings that kind of intensity, it should be another close game.