The Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in a game they had no business losing. For three quarters, the Sixers looked like the better team, flashing a more consistent offense and a stingier defense.
Unfortunately, as the fourth quarter came and went, the Sixers could not harness any of the sharp jump shooting that had propelled them into the lead in the first half. In addition to some poor shot selection and streaky shooting, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett combined to torch the Sixer defense.
Garnett finished with 29 points on 12-of-20 shooting and Rondo cleaned up with one of his signature triple-doubles, posting 13 points, 12 rebounds and 17 assists in 40 minutes of work.
For the Sixers to steal home court advantage from the Celtics, they will need to put together a complete game from start to finish. Streaky shooting won't cut it, and they will need to find a go-to scorer down the stretch.
Here are five keys to a Game 2 win for the Sixers.
Evan Turner was undoubtedly the Sixers' best player in Game 1. Turner showed no hesitation driving the lane on the smaller yet pesky Rajon Rondo, and played well with his back to the basket.
Turner finished with a double-double as he recorded 16 points (on 7-of-13 shooting) and 10 rebounds.
However, Turner did not manage to score even one point in the game's final stanza. Throughout Game 1 we saw Avery Bradley guard Jrue Holiday effectively, which ultimately left Turner free to operate.
If the Celtics continue to place more importance on limiting Holiday, then Turner should be fed the ball throughout all four quarters.
With guys like Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday struggling against Boston's stingy defense, Turner may need to shine brighter than he did against Chicago if the Sixers want to pull out a win in Game 2.
Besides the crucial injuries suffered by the Chicago Bulls in round one, the Sixers were able to defeat the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed because they got out and ran.
The fast break has been the Sixers' calling card all season long, and their youth and athleticism is certainly a plus in this series against the aging Celtics.
In Game 2 the Celtics actually outscored the Sixers by one point (14 to 13) on the fast break, thanks mostly in part to the energized play of Rajon Rondo down the stretch.
With a slew of athletic wing players like Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, the Sixers should look to push the ball any chance they can.
In the regular season the Boston Celtics finished 30th in the NBA in rebounds per game at 38.8 per contest. On the other hand, the Sixers finished seventh with 43 rebounds per game.
In Game 1, the Sixers were out-rebounded only marginally, but the Celtics maintained the upper hand on the offensive glass.
Although neither team is big in the frontcourt, the Sixers possess younger, stronger players who are capable of crashing the glass. In order to secure a win in Game 2 it's absolutely crucial that the Sixers limit Boston's second chance opportunities and do their very best to box out.
Look for Elton Brand to make a more significant impact on the glass in Game 2.
One of the league's premier reserves, Lou Williams never quite found his shot against the Chicago Bulls. It didn't look like he made any progress in Game 1 against the Celtics.
Williams finished 4-of-11 from the field (1-of-4 from three) for only nine points. However, a more surprising number is 24. That's how many minutes Lou played in Game 1.
With Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner becoming the team's go-to threats down the stretch these past few weeks, Williams' role as the centerpiece of a diverse backcourt has started to vanish.
Williams was the Sixers leading scorer during the regular season, and if they want to strike fear into the hearts of the Celtics and their fans, the half-court offense is going to have to run through him first.
Elton Brand was an absolute non-factor in Game 1, scoring four points in just 15 minutes of work. With the Celtics going small on several occasions on Saturday night, Brand was forced out of the lineup in favor of the more versatile Thaddeus Young.
Brand may be on the downside of his career, but he's a veteran leader who can set the tone for the Sixers. However, he can't set the tone if he's not on the floor.
If Brand is going to steal some minutes they're going to come early, as Doug Collins has gone with Thaddeus Young late in games throughout the playoffs.
If Brand is able to knock down some shots early and get into a rhythm, the Sixers will find themselves a new offensive weapon that's capable of knocking down 12 foot jumpers consistently.