Tag:Thaddeus Young
Posted on: April 21, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 2:01 pm
  •  
 

Series Reset: Sixers are at the plank

Can the Sixers make this a series or is Miami just too much for Philadelphia? First two games don't paint a rosy picture for the Sixers.
Posted by Matt Moore




The Narrative:  It doesn't take a genius to tell you this is a must-win for Philadelphia. A loss and you can fold up the tents, carnies, the circus is leaving town. That's pretty obvious. There are things less likely than the Sixers charging back from an 0-3 deficit to even make the Heat sweat (see what I did there?). They just happen to include a colossal burrito devouring all life on earth and people on the internet learning to live in peace and harmony. It ain't happening. Philly had some things going right in Game 1, but Game 2 came along and sucked all hope in to a vaccumous black hole of defensive rotations and LeBron James dunking all the time. But, they'll be in front of the home crowd, as underwhelming as they may be, and this is their best chance to surprise some people and put the series into a little bit of doubt. We've seen nothing from Philadelphia to suggest that, should they lose this game, their spirit won't be crushed and the brooms won't be brought to the table. 

The Hook : Chris Bosh went off in Game 1. LeBron James dominated in Game 2. Is it Dwyane Wade's turn? Jodie Meeks has done a surprisingly good job in this series chasing Wade, from baseline to baseline, through screens, and contesting as much as possible. Wade's still having a good series because he's a very good player, but Meeks has done pretty well. In a game where you have to think the Sixers will start doubling Bosh and James, more, Wade may have a monster game. There's going to have to be help from the corners to James on the drive and Bosh in the post, and while it would be great to think the Sixers would bring help from a non-Big-3 defender, they haven't shown a willingness to be so brash as to leave one of the supporting players wide open much. They did some of that early in Game 1, when, if you'll notice, they were winning, but got away from it when the Heat started to overload one side with the Triad. If Bosh and James are willing passers, Wade's going to have a good chance at getting free, and that's when the havoc starts. 

The Adjustment: Before we got started, a key to this series was Philadelphia's ability to force the Miami offense out of the pick and roll and into more ISO sets. If they can slow the Heat down and put them in ISO, Miami may try and do too much individually and they choke themselves out on bad fadeaways and blown layups. Instead, in Game 2, the Heat had a 3-1 ratio of Pick and Roll to ISO sets. The Sixers must  shut down the pick and roll and force the Heat into ISO or spot-up situations. There are some teams you can't do this against, they'll just keep hammering you with the P'n'R. The Heat, though, will succumb to the effort and go solo if you make it too difficult for them to run. Spencer Hawes, Marreese Speights, and Elton Brand have to show effectively on the ball handler to back him off or at least wheel him back enough for help to rotate over, and then they must recover against Bosh in the pick and pop for the mid-range. If it sounds like a lot for Philly to do? Well, that's why they're the underdog and the seventh seed. 

The X-Factor: Evan Turner? The No.2 overall pick who didn't even play down the stretch for Philly in favor of the always-terrible Andres Nocioni had some big plays in Game 2. Yes it was a blowout, but looking at what the Sixers accomplished with Turner in to stretch the floor, you have to wonder if Turner doesn't deserve more run. Putting in a point-forward lineup with Turner, Iguodala, and Young to work the inside and outside might be creative enough to counter the Triad for a spell. So far, Doug Collins hasn't used such a lineup much, but when he has, it's been effective. There's no reason not to try it in Game 3 or 4, after all, it's time to throw the kitchen-sink at them. 

The Sticking Point: Miami is better. They are just way better in every matchup, because of the brute strength of the Triad covering up the weaknesses of the others. Usually I'm an advocate that a few key adjustments can turn the series. But Philly threw a lot of their arsenal at the Heat in Game 1, and in Game 2, were totally steamrolled by a Heat team that expected them. It's really hard to see how Philly's going to get out of this hole. 
Posted on: April 19, 2011 1:56 am
Edited on: April 19, 2011 2:14 am
 

NBA Playoffs Sixers-Heat: The trap of dominance

The Heat are rolling while the Bulls are struggling. But which is in a better position in the long run?
Posted by Matt Moore




Alright. We hate to bury the Sixers before the heart stops beating, because it's entirely possible they put together a much better effort in games 3 and 4 to even the series. But they certainly look outmatched in the first two meetings. The Sixers pushed the Heat a bit in the first meeting before the Heat responded with a fury. There was no such response in Game 2 , as the Heat clobbered them beyond all reason. And since this is a 2-7 matchup, even with the craziness of the opening weekend of the NBA, we can look ahead just a bit from the first round and ask the question.

Is this really what's best for the Heat? A total roll-over?

While the Lakers and Spurs are dropping their first playoff games to lower seeds and the Bulls are struggling through a much tougher series than the No. 1 seed should, the Miami Heat ran away from the Sixers. The Sixers hung tough for the first quarter and sustained a fourth quarter rally. Other than that? It's been nothing but the Triad show, and the Triad show has been impressive. A sweep seems more likely for the Heat than any alternative. So what does it mean? 

It means that, should the Bulls win two more games, and the Celtics three more, that the Heat will have two battle-tested teams between them and the Finals. But the Heat will be riding the same thing that carried them into the season: hype. It seems counter-intuitive to suggest that losing is better than winning. And it's not. Winning close is better than losing. The Bulls aren't doubting themselves right now. They're feeling good about being halfway out of the first round. Sure, there are things to work on. But the Bulls also had to work to get the two wins they've gotten in the first two games of the playoffs. And that's the result. They worked hard, and as a result, they don't have a loss in the playoffs. This isn't to say that the Heat haven't worked hard. Surely, blowing out the Sixers in such a way as to make the team quit and turn a playoff game into a horrendously boring affair by the middle of the third frame takes a bit of effort. But there's a difference between having to match a team who has the playoff gear, testing you, forcing you to scrap for every point and to rise comebacks, and playing up the score like it's a video game set on "easy." 

The Heat also can't determine who they play. They can't swap with the Bulls (though I'm sure the Bulls would take them up on that for a stretch). They can only beat the team in front of them with the best effort they can muster. And in that regard, they're outperforming the Bulls. But the Bulls will learn things emotionally and mentally against the Pacers. They'll find or remember the gear and intensity of a close playoff series. The Celtics will find the same in a tough series against the Knicks. The Heat? They'll start to buy into themselves, just like Orlando did last year and the Cavaliers before that. And if there's one thing that's shown to undo this team, it's the comfort of destroying softer teams and the stark contrast between those contests and the battles they'll face against great teams. 

The Heat could use a stiff test to show that they can close; like the Celtics and Bulls have. It's the bizarre situation where the Heat could finally benefit from not looking like the greatest team in the league. Typical. Even when the Heat win, they don't win. 




Posted on: April 18, 2011 10:48 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:10 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Sixers-Heat: LeBron > Philly

LeBron James > Entire Philadelphia Starting 5
Posted by Matt Moore




LeBron James: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists. 

Philadelphia 76ers starting five: 29 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists. 

And that's pretty much all you need to know. James matched the point totals of the entire Philly starting five, and he only played 38 minutes. James scored those 29 points on 19 shots. The Philadelphia starting five scored 29 points on 35 shots. James shot 10 free throws. Philly's starting five shot 8. 

Yeah, it was one of those. 94-73, Miami .

The totals for James are nothing absurd, which says a lot about a. the level of production from James and the other elite players in the league, and b. how truly horrendously awful the Sixers were against a Heat defense. That defense, by the way, that was made to look championship worthy by Philadelphia's never-ending stream of contested mid-range jumpers, blown layups and poor decisions. The Heat maintained position, brought help, and closed off everything inside for the Sixers, who died on the vine. 

James, meanwhile, rarely if ever saw help defense, bulldozed his way past it when it was brought, had the mid-range jumper game working, drew his usual number of fouls and created opportunities in transition. It was the kind of game you'd expect from James in the first round, and it absolutely choked the life out of the Sixers. Andre Iguodala still couldn't match his moves, Thaddeus Young couldn't stop his speed, Jodie Meeks couldn't hang with his size. James is a bad matchup for everyone in the league. He's especially bad for the Sixers. Check the shot chart:




For more on the game, check out the GameTracker.  

This was one of those nights where James had the jumper working. When he's at that level, there's just not much you can do. You have to play back because of his physical abilities, which the Sixers tried at different times, bringing help under the screen. And, when they did, James simply stepped back and nailed the pull-up. He had one ridiculous, unnecessary 3-pointer in the third that kind of sealed the deal, but really, he could simply dominate the game from where he wanted. There wasn't much to be done. 
Most notable were the Philadelphia guards trying to play a slow, grind-it-out game instead of pushing it in transition, backing off of fast-breaks and letting the Heat's defense even further entrench themselves. The Heat killed them, the Sixers killed themselves, and the combination of both means the Sixers can see their playoff pulse starting to fade. 

The 76ers offense probably won't miss as many layups, and easy ones, again (and, hopefully, Doug Collins will take the next mid-range jumpshooter and beat him with some sort of wooden club). But the message has been sent. The Heat are in total control of this series, and it'll take a drastic change in stratagem, lineups or emotion for Philadelphia to claw back in during the two-game set at home.

Otherwise, the Heat will have time to rest up before the next round begins. 
Posted on: April 18, 2011 4:37 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 4:46 pm
 

Series Reset: Sixers have a chance

We reset the Sixers-Heat series as Game 2 approaches. Can the Sixers get over the hump instead of just challenging?
Posted by Matt Moore

The Narrative: What, an Eastern favorite didn't need a game winner to close out their first game in the first round? Crazy talk!  The Heat just kind of took care of business after a shaky start and then busted down a Sixers charge. Feisty is probably the worse for the Sixers right now, but if you don't win, that doesn't translate to much. Game 1 pretty much established we're likely not going to see a blowout series, but also that the Sixers are outmatched.

The Hook: So what's that mean going forward? It means the Sixers have a chance. They're overmatched, yes, but not to the degree they can't be competitive in the series. The key for them is going to be effort. When you don't have the talent edge, you have to rely on a supreme effort. Without that, the Sixers are just trying to match up, which they can't. But with the Heat feeling confident, even after a close win in Game 1, there might be room for an upset. Getting a big head start again is key, just as much as keeping it. 

The Adjustment: Who to help? Chris Bosh kiled the Sixers in Game 1 with 25 points. So do you bring help on Bosh and leave yourself open to damage from Wade and James? Or do you sacrifice open looks for the Heat shooters? The answer is the latter, obviously. The best strategy against the Heat is to focus all the energy on whichever of the Triad is hot and hope the sub-par support players on the Heat choke themselves out. 

The X-Factor: Thadeus Young. Young was downright relentless in Game 1, and especially in the fourth quarter. The Heat primarily tried guarding him with Chris Bosh and James Jones. It did not work. As problematic as Andre Iguodala can be for the Heat, they may want to keep LeBron James on Young and stick Wade on Iguodala. 

The Sticking Point: According to Synergy Sports, the Sixers ran seven transition plays in the first quarter. They only had eight opportunities the rest of the game. If the Sixers want a chance to make this competitive, they have to keep pushing the ball. They can't count on turnovers, so it's going to take Jrue Holiday setting the tone. The Heat have no one to check Holiday without exposing themselves to significant risk, so the Sixers have to make them pay. If they let the Heat grind the game down and stretch it out, they're going to get worn down into four losses and an early exit. 
Posted on: April 17, 2011 12:22 am
Edited on: April 17, 2011 2:29 am
 

NBA Playoffs Sixers-Heat: How Bosh got it done

Chris Bosh takes advantage of what should always have been his role with the Heat: cleaning up after the attention on Wade and James. 
Posted by Matt Moore
Chris Bosh does not have the same fanfare and attention that his two superstar teammates -- LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- possess.

And while James, a two-time league MVP, and Wade, a former NBA Finals MVP, will have a bright spotlight cast upon them throughout their first playoff experience together as teammates, they both know that Bosh, a six-time All-Star, will need to play at a high level if the Heat are going to be holding the championship trophy come June.

"C.B. is the most important player on our team," said James following the Heat's 97-89 win over the 76ers in Game 1. "When C.B. plays aggressive, when C.B. shoots the ball well, and when he rebounds, we are a very, very, very good team."
via Bosh's play could be determining factor in Heat's playoff run - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball .

More on 76ers at Heat
Related links
Chris Bosh was key in the Heat's victory over the Sixers, and while he's caught the most criticism as a member of the Triad this season, he also holds huge potential to turn them into an entirely different team. Perhaps most interesting about his 25-point, 12-rebound performance against the Sixers Saturday was that his production came so much as an auxilliary player. In essence, it was more what the Heat had planned when they got together this summer. 

The idea was that with three of the top ten (at the time, five, but, let's be honest, not so much in retrospect) players in the league, the Heat would always have someone open. But their inability to create space or work in tandem effectively meant instead it was three great players going ISO a lot. Against the Sixers, Philadelphia keyed on James and Wade. The result was Bosh getting lots of looks off-ball.

Bosh scored six points on seven possessions in the post, but four of those came on drawn fouls. He put back two offensive rebounds, created both times by attention caused by James and Wade. He scored seven points on seven possessions in the pick and roll, and this was his bread and butter. Twice he benefited from a pick-and-pop situation involving someone other than himself as the screener. When James or Wade came off the pick, the defense hedged hard on them, opening up the screen man, and driving the defense to rotate to that man. Bosh would then leak out. Twice he got open looks on account of this set.

Sounds stunning, right? Hey, let's use the third best player on the team who is a top power-forward in this league and use him to get easy buckets considering he can score from anywhere! Magic! But this is the kind of play that eluded the Heat all season. Getting it going against the Sixers is a step towards getting themselves in a position to compete in the second round against (presumably) Boston. While the Heat offense was far from its best against a feisty Sixers team, it was good enough to show what it's capable of. 

Bosh drew fouls, worked off-ball, hit the glass (which cannot be emphasized enough), and helped the Heat walk away with a win. If the defense is forced to account for Bosh, that's going to create more opportunities for Wade and James. As long as the reserve players can provide anything, literally anything, the Heat are on track for where they want to go offensively in the playoffs. 


Posted on: April 16, 2011 7:31 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2011 8:52 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Sixers-Heat: Miami grinds it out


Posted by Matt Moore




And again, the underdog nearly pulls it off, but comes up short . The Sixers started hot against the Heat. Then, the Heat slowly chipped away, chipped away, and took over. It looked like an easy win for the Heat when they were up 11 with 5:57 to play. By the 2:26 mark, it was a one-point game. The Sixers made a late run, keyed by Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday, working inside and out, but couldn't close. Then, Wade did this fun thing .

More on 76ers at Heat
Related links
If we're trying to find a real theme in this game, it comes from this. The Heat turned this game into a slugfest. Slowed it down to a snail's pace and ground it out. The Sixers shot 42 percent from the field, but had an effective field goal percentage (factoring 3-point attempts) of 45.8 percent. That's bad, but still better than the Heat. And that was a big part of how they hung around. The reality is that, for a team that relies so much on transition, buckets and speed, the Heat turned into a slow-it-down, brutalize-it club. And that was their biggest success against Philadelphia. When the Sixers got in transition and sped the game up, they had considerably more success. Factor in Chris Bosh's 25 points and 12 rebounds and that's the model for a Heat win. 

Defensively for the Sixers, there has to be more help and it has to come before the point of attack. The Sixers gave up 39 free throws (as opposed to the fifteen they managed). Philadelphia gave up fouls on nearly 19% of all possessions for Miami. Some of that's star calls, sure. But that doesn't change it from being something Philly has to respond to. There needs to be more communication defensively to help out on possessions, especially when James is leading. 

The Heat were not efficient in this game, outside of creating free throws (which is, in itself, efficient, but bear with me). Their three leading scorers (the Triad) shot 41 percent from the field. On the one hand, you have to say the Sixers won't be lucky enough to run into that bad of a shooting performance across the board. On the other, the Heat have to convert more opportunities. This was a solid win that the Heat had control of for 3.25 quarters. But it was also a game in which they left the door open. 

That said, if the Heat's defense maintains its intensity for the entire game, Philadelphia's options become more and more limited. 

Notes: 

  • Somewhere in the back of their minds, the Heat coaching staff has to be concerned about the work of Jrue Holiday (19 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists).  Point guard is a soft spot for the Heat defensively, and Holiday has a higher ceiling than he showed Saturday. 
  • On the flip side, Philadelphia has to be terrified about Spencer Hawes. The Heat do not have strong center play and Hawes was totally overwhelmed in a limited 13 minutes. He shot selectively and efficiently but was unable to work well on the glass. 
  • Andres Nocioni should not play. He's too much of a liability in this series. 
  • Jodie Meeks did a great job in the first half against Dwyane Wade. Later, when switched against LeBron James, he was overmatched. Which isn't surprisingly. It's confusing that Collins would go that route. 
  • Late in the game, LeBron James largely played a "spy linebacker" position; waiting low to block whoever came to the paint. It was frightening to see him in that kind of lurking role. 
Posted on: April 14, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 3:34 pm
 

Sixers-Heat Preview: It's another tequila sunrise

The 2011 NBA Eastern Conference First-Round Playoffs roll on as we take a look at Sixers-Heat
Posted by Matt Moore



I. Intro

The Sixers are a nice story. They really are. Doug Collins pulled this team up by the bootstraps and once it got done punching itself in the face, it came together. They're a solid defensive team with some speed and youth at key positions. Pesky might be the word. 

The Heat are the big story. We've seen them show flashes of brilliance, but those all came in-between prolonged periods of malaise and incoherence. Everyone wants to see if this team has that extra gear. It's assumed with great playoff teams. But this team doesn't have that experience, not together. How are they going to react to when the games start to matter? Will the sleeping giant awaken, or will the playoffs just prove to be yet another challenge the heat fail to pass with flying colors?

The Sixers are swamped in matchups thanks to the talent on the Heat , which is going to make tactical decisions that much more important. The Heat need to look great to get some confidence. The Sixers just need to hang. 

II. What Happened: A Look at the Season Series

The Heat crushed them. I mean, killed them. It was a slaughter. The Heat averaged a 109.2 offensive efficiency and allowed just a 98.3. That's pretty impressive for the Heat/terrible for the Sixers on both sides of the ball. They outscored the Sixers by an average of 10.3 points, and shot 47 percent. 

There is some context, though, here. The Sixers had a horrific start to the season, and two of the games in the season series were during that span. The third game was in late March when the Heat were at their strongest and the Sixers were cooling down.  So we haven't really seen the Heat play the Sixers except when the Sixers were a mess. Philadelphia did manage its closest efficiency differential in the second game, when they were starting to figure things out, losing by just nine. All in all, the Heat definitely have the upper hand in this matchup, but the first glance doesn't tell you everything you need to know. 

III. The Easy Stuff: Dwyane Wade is a problem

Wade averaged 25.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists this season overall. Against Philadelphia, he averaged 30.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 6.7 assists. That's a one-man wrecking crew. The Sixers have no one to guard him, in reality. Not without going into a flex-big lineup with both Iguodala and Young on the floor, but that rotation hasn't played much together this season. The Sixers did use that lineup in the three games agianst the Heat, but that was really where Wade killed them. 

Looking at the Game Flows from Popcornmachine.net , the Sixers had their worst problems with Wade when Lou Williams was guarding him. This is problematic, as Williams is their truest shooting guard with any scoring impact. Jodie Meeks on the other hand held Wade to his two lowest-impact quarters. Even rookie Evan Turner did decent work against him. Andres Nocioni should not see any floor time in this series, but you probably knew that. He will. 

Wade's a stellar player, but his biggest game was a 39 point effort in March. In that game, his two biggest quarters were the 2nd and 4th, where he dropped 37 of his 39 points. In those two quarters, Meeks played just under eight minutes total. Meeks needs to be central part of the Sixers' defensive design or Wade's going to slice them into little tiny pieces and eat them with Sriracha. 

III. Secret of the Series: Help, (the Sixers) need somebody, help, not just any body

According to Synergy Sports, in the Sixers' best effort against the Heat, Philadelphia brought help or committed to the ball handler on the pick and role 22 of 29 times, or 76 percent. In their other losses, the Sixers only brought help 29 of 52 times, or 56 percent of the time.  In the Sixers' best effort against Miami, the Heat ran 28 Isolation plays, versus 34 combined in the other two games. You getting the pattern? This sounds simple, make the Heat get out of their offense, right? 

But what it means is that the Sixers need to commit to help defense, even if it exposes them to open jumpers. If they bring help on pick and rolls and on James and Wade in Isolation, that means there will be jump-passes to wide open threes from Mike Bibby, James Jones, Mike Miller, and Mario Chalmers. Fine. You live with that. The Sixers don't need to have a Celtics-like commitment to defensie principles. If they make mistakes in over-helping that leaves them unable to rotate, that's fine. Just keep the Triad in front of them. Making mistakes are fine as long as they're the right mistakes. The Sixers' offense is going to struggle. There's just no way around it. The Sixers' best shot is making the game into a defensive grind, keeping it close or making a late run to make it close, then try and push for transition buckets off of Heat miscommunication. 

But to do that they have to bring help, a lot of of help. 


IV. The Dinosaur Narrative: "WILL LeBron James WILT IN THE PLAYOFFS AGAIN?"

Last year's playoff series still lingers in people's minds. They remember the way James appeared to capitulate to the Celtics, to abandon his team. So now he's been branded with this narrative. 

The Sixers are not the Celtics. And furthermore, it's not like James has never won a playoff series. He's got a strong history of success in the playoffs, albeit without the "biggest" of series, which is always the last one you play. But trying to extrapolate James' struggles against the best defense in the NBA over the past three years into a narrative about his relative success is overblown. We're not talking Tracy McGrady, here. James has done his fair share of blowing first-round teams off the map, and the Sixers are likely to be next.  V. The Line-Item Veto: Who has control in each matchup? Quick, line by line. Ex. SG: Dwyane Wade versus Jodie Meeks isn't really fair. Meks has good length but Wade is just... Wade.

VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each matchup?

PG: This could be Jrue Holiday's coming-out party. Bibby's not nearly fast enough to stick him, and Chalmers isn't aware enough to watch him off-ball. Problem will arise when the Heat go no-point, and he has to defend Wade. Doug Collins will be making a lot of subs in this series. 

SG: We already talked about how Meeks can have an impact on this series. But c'mon. It's Dwyane freaking Wade and he dropped 30 per game on this team. 

SF: Andre Igoudala seems like a really nice guy, doesn't he? Great leader for Team USA this weekend. /whistles ... It's LeBron.

PF: Split. Bosh is better offensively, but Elton Brand may eat him alive on the boards. If Brand goes way-back-machine mode, the Heat may have to send help. That starts trouble for the Heat, even as mediocre as the Sixers are from the perimeter (15th in 3-point percentage). 

C: Doesn't this feel like a matchup where both teams fans are going to look at the other center and go "Man, I wish we had that guy!" only neither center is really good? Hawes gets the edge here, but if Joel Anthony keeps playing like he has lately, he might get the push.

Bench: Sixers win this one strong. Thaddeus Young has been a sixth-man of the year candidate, and the Sixers have the fourth best bench in the league, according to Hoopsstats.com .

Coach:  Well, considering Doug Collins is a Coach of the Year candidate and Erik Spoelstra had to put a marker on his parkig spot to make sure no one took it before he was canned, I think we're going to give Collins the advantage here. 


VII. Conclusion

There's not a tougher series to peg. Know why? You know what to expect out of every team in the playoffs except Miami. Denver may be outmatched, but they'll bring it. The Pacers are out of their league, but they won't just roll over and die. The Celtics are in disarray, but you know they'll be mentally ready. Same with the Lakers. Miami? They could sink the Sixers' battleship in the first game and never let them recover. They could lose the first game. They could start strong then get lazy. There's just no way of predicting this team's effort game-to-game. 

I flipped on this prediction six times. I started out with your standard 2-2-2 6-game set. Then I went all wacky and went to a seven game series with fans and media talking about how terrible the Heat are, and could they lose in the first round. Then I walked it back to a sweep. Then back to a six-gamer. Then I thought maybe a gentleman's sweep (5 games, you give 'em one out of being polite). But I keep coming back to that Heat team that lost to mediocre team after mediocre team this season. Except Philly. Which either means the Sixers have no chance or they're due. I have absolute faith in Miami winnning. I just have no faith in them winning comfortably. Prediction: Heat in 6.

VIII. CBSSports.com Video Preview

Can the Philadelphia 76ers contend with the all-star talent on the Miami Heat when they face off in round 1 of the NBA Playoffs? Ian Eagle and Ken Berger breakdown this upcoming playoff matchup.

Posted on: April 5, 2011 4:00 pm
 

Philly's best approach versus Boston? Run

Posted by Royce Young



The Celtics have slipped quite a bit in the last couple weeks. They've gone from the top of the East to now the three-seed.

And come April 16 when the playoffs start, they may really regret that.

There are a number of things for them to be a bit anxious about, most notably the health of Shaquille O'Neal, but setting themselves up for a first-round matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers is surely worrying Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge.

They lock up again tonight, but so far this season, while the Celtics are 2-1 against the pesky Sixers, the three games have been decided by a total of just eight points.

Why do the Celtics have such issue with the young 76ers? To me, it's simple: The Sixers can play any game the Celtics want.

What makes the Sixers so dangerous is that they're absolutely capable of beating the Celtics at their own game. Philadelphia can slow it down and play 48 minutes of grind-it-out basketball. The Sixers can put the weight on their defense to get stops. They can beat the Celtics in a 85-83 game.

However, I can't see the Sixers beat the Celtics four times at their own game. Once, yeah. Twice? Maybe. Three times is pushing it.

Philadelphia will have to make a tactical adjustment against Boston to really press last season's Eastern champs. The 76ers have the ability to speed up the older Celtics. Much in the same way Oklahoma City really pushed the Lakers by using their athleticism, versatility and speed, the Sixers need to make the old men in green move.

The Sixers are much more athletic than the Celtics with players like Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala. And they've got to utilize that in order to push Boston. Like I said, Philadelphia is capable of playing the Celtics game, but the best approach for the Sixers if they truly want to challenge Boston it to make the Celtics adjust to them.

Philly doesn't play especially fast at a pace of 91.2, but that doesn't mean they can't go up tempo a bit. Finding easy baskets in the halfcourt against Boston isn't easy, so utilizing Young's versatility, Iguodala's freakish transition ability and a playmaker like Holiday is key.

What's really turned things around for the Sixers after an atrocious 3-13 start is a renewed committment to defense, but also coach Doug Collins trust of his younger guys. Collins knew Holiday had the ability to be a very good starting point guard, so he put the ball in his hands and let him go. He convinced Iguodala to settle into more of a role rather than playing the star. He started getting some production out of the awesome talents of Young. And Elton Brand has really rediscovered himself as a quality power forward.

(One thing that must be mentioned: The Sixers aren't going anywhere without Lou Williams. He provides such a punch off the bench and really gives Philly quite the second unit. He said he hopes to be ready for the playoffs and he better be if the 76ers have any dreams of actually pushing the Celtics.)

Across the board, the Sixers have the ability to match up with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Where they have struggled and will continue in the future against Boston is finding points. That's why playing a bit quicker and looking to move the ball up the floor rather than setting up in the halfcourt could help. Playing small with Brand at center, Young at power forward, Iguodala at the 3 and with Holiday and marksman Jodie Meeks really gives the Celtics a difficult matchup, especially if they want to play Shaq.

The Sixers could eliminate Shaq (though he might be eliminated because of a bum heel already) just by using their versatility. The Sixers kind of hold the cards in the matchups. But they can't beat Boston in a series playing in the halfcourt.

I get the feeling the Sixers have Boston's full attention and it would probably be in the Celtics best interest to go ahead and move up to the two-seed and avoid the young 76ers altogether.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com