Somehow though, the uglier things have become, the prettier the results have been for the Sixers.
Winning is winning, even when it's ugly. For either team, the idea of getting to the Eastern Conference finals—no matter how ugly Game 7 gets—sounds pretty darn good.
It's clear that if the 76ers stand any chance to upset the Celtics in Game 7 at the Garden, things are going to have to get ugly—very ugly.
In their three wins in the series, the Celtics have averaged exactly 100 points while holding the Sixers to 89 per game. In the three wins for the Sixers, Boston has averaged 79.6 points, while Philadelphia has scored just 85.3 per game.
Which stat is more telling: the Celtics averaging 20 points more in the games they have won or the 76ers averaging 3.7 less in their wins?
Can it be both?
In Game 2 of the series, the Sixers held Boston to under 42 percent from the field, pulling out the win despite shooting even worse than their counterparts.
Think about how ridiculous this sounds. The Sixers have won two games in the series while scoring 82 points and shooting under 46 percent from the field. In Game 6, Philadelphia was 1-of-9 from beyond the arc and 17-of-28 from the free-throw line and they won.
The Celtics were 26-of-78 (33.3 percent) from the field in a close-out game. How is that possible? How is it possible a team that shot 52 percent in a blowout in Game 5 could be so terrible in Game 6?
Should we credit Philly's defense? Sure, both teams have been playing solid defense for stretches in the series, but players have also been missing layups, clanging open jumpers and passing the ball into the stands. The Celtics shot 33 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers in an elimination game. I don't care how tough the Sixers' defense was, those numbers are just plain ugly.
But is that as ugly as the Sixers shooting 37.8 percent from the field in Game 4 and finding a way to win the game? You can't get much uglier than that.
However, if ugly can get you to the next round of the NBA playoffs, then ugly is what Game 7 is going to have to be.
For the 76ers, nothing has been pretty this postseason. They defeated the top-seeded Bulls by nature of Chicago's own misfortune, losing Derrick Rose for the year before playing without Joakim Noah for the final two games of the series, all but handing a second-round berth to the Sixers.
The Celtics are falling apart physically, too. Avery Bradley has missed the last two games for Boston. Ray Allen looks, at times, like a 200-year-old man playing against a bunch of teenagers. In Game 6, the Sixers clearly took advantage of Boston's lack of depth.
The great irony in this series? For the Celtics to win, they need the game to be ugly, too.
Philadelphia thrives in the open court, beating teams with tough defense, pace and fast-break points. In the half court, the Sixers are often exposed offensively, which sensibly leads Boston to want to grind the game down to a standstill and make the game as ugly as possible.
If Boston can hit its shots, the game could get really ugly for the 76ers. Much like in Game 5, the Celtics surely have enough firepower to run Philadelphia out of the gym if they hit their shots (or if Brandon Bass gets half a dozen open dunks in a row).
If the Celtics struggle on offense—they have lost the three games in which they shot under 43 percent from the field—things could get really ugly for fans at the Boston Garden. Losing a Game 7 at home to the Sixers would be devastating. You really can't get much uglier than that.
Wait. I almost forgot—the winner of this ugly matchup has to face the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Talk about a series that could get ugly, fast.
For now, though, it doesn't matter. Whichever team loses will only remember how ugly things got, but for the team that wins, nobody will ever care. Nobody will ever look back on this series and lament how boring the games were or how terrible both teams shot the ball.
For whichever team wins, the series will look pretty nice in retrospect.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!