2012 NBA Playoffs: 3 Things Philadelphia Must Do to Finish off Boston
At some times, Philadelphia has executed like the team that beat the top-seeded Chicago Bulls. At other times, they've looked like the team that almost missed the playoffs.
Philadelphia has played spectacular defense, scored points in the clutch, and found ways to win gritty, hard-nosed games. However, Boston is figuring them out.
If the 76ers don't win Games 6 and 7, they'll be eliminated from the playoffs.
However, there is definitely a way for the 76ers to defeat Boston and move on. Here are three keys to an Eastern Conference Finals berth for the 76ers.
Play Hard-Nosed, Physical Defense
The 76ers have excelled throughout the playoffs at playing defense, especially at holding opponents to a low field-goal percentage.
Chicago struggled to find their shooting groove against the 76ers, who contested every shot and fought for every loose ball. The 76ers didn't rebound too well, but they were able to escape with the series.
When Derrick Rose wasn't playing, the Bulls never topped 92 points (and in that game, Philly scored 109). However, Boston has topped 100 points twice, and in both games, they walked away victorious.
Game 5 was one of those two games where Boston scored 100+ points. The 76ers didn't play with the same tenacity on defense, and as a result, Boston scored at will in the third and fourth quarters.
At home, the 76ers shouldn't have the same problem, as they will likely be encouraged by the "win or go home situation" and the presence of their crowd. However, in Game 7, that problem could arise.
If it does, Philadelphia will be going home. So they have to contest every shot, fight for every loose ball and rebound, and force Boston out of the paint.
Without the defense we've seen Philadelphia bring in their victories, the 76ers will be going home empty.
Rebound and Hustle
The picture accurately reflects what the 76ers have been doing at some points of the playoffs and what they need to do at all points of the playoffs.
Boston was scoring way too easily, as Rajon Rondo was driving to the middle and finishing at will. The Celtics dominated the paint and forced Philadelphia to take jumpers, and eventually, Boston had a huge cushion.
Another thing Philadelphia struggled with was rebounding. Although Philly out-rebounded Boston in the fifth game, Boston is the worst rebounding team in the NBA, and the 76ers should have a huge edge on the glass.
Philadelphia's top rebounder was Evan Turner, who has continued to play great perimeter defense, contest shots, and rebound very well. Unfortunately, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen failed miserably on the glass, and that can't happen in the final game(s).
Unless Philadelphia hustles consistently and gets great rebounding from their big guys, they're going to be sent home.
Create and Make Good Shots
Philadelphia led Game 5 early because they were knocking down their shots. Unfortunately, that success didn't carry over to the second half.
The 76ers weren't creating good shots, and as a result, they were missing. Boston's defense was sparked by the crowd and their brilliant offense, as well as great defense.
At the free throw line, the 76ers struggled mightily. They went 10-for-16 while the Celtics added 26 points at the line (26-for-33). Philadelphia wasn't able to get to the line enough, but they let Boston get to the line too much.
As long as the 76ers can create good shots and take advantage of their shooting opportunities, they'll be able to win. Down the stretch, Philadelphia will need to create great opportunities, because the Celtics will be giving it all they have.
There's a lot that the 76ers have to do, but it's manageable. As long as the 76ers execute their kind of basketball, they will beat the Celtics and advance to the ECF.