Game 77: Celtics vs. 76ers
|(53-23, 30-8 home)||-- vs. --||(40-37, 15-25 away)|
PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- Playoff Preview?: The Celtics and 76ers currently hold the third and sixth seeds in the Eastern Conference, respectively, which means if the playoffs started today, they'd square off in a first-round battle. While games between these two clubs might not have held too much significance in recent years, don't be shocked if Tuesday's tilt has that extra air of intensity as each team tries to make a statement to the other with the postseason less than two weeks away.
- Inside Men: Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been preaching for weeks for his club to initiate its offense in the post, and after registering just 34 points in the paint in an 88-83 loss to the Atlanta Hawks last Friday, the C's responded with 48 points in the paint in a 101-90 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday. Kevin Garnett boasts a slight height advantage over Elton Brand, but his added length when he shoots should give him an edge down low if the Celtics feed him the ball regularly. Paul Pierce said after Sunday's win in which Garnett scored a team-high 23 points that Boston will have to make an effort to get Garnett the ball on a more consistent basis as the regular season winds down.
- Getting Guys Back: Both Nenad Krstic (bruised right knee) and Troy Murphy (sprained right ankle) are expected to return to the lineup after brief absences. Krstic has missed the last two games after leaving late in the first half of the Celtics' 107-97 victory over the San Antonio Spurs last Thursday, while Murphy has missed six straight games following a right ankle sprain he suffered in practice on March 24. The Celtics will welcome their big men back with open arms, as they've been lacking size in their last three games, with Shaquille O'Neal battling multiple injuries and Jermaine O'Neal still on a Rivers-imposed minute restriction as he works his way back from left knee surgery.
The 76ers won the most recent matchup 89-86 on March 11 to avoid a four-game losing streak in the series. Boston has taken 12 of the last 15 meetings.
While the Celtics won't have Shaquille O'Neal, the Sixers (40-37) will be without Lou Williams, their top reserve who is third on the team with 13.7 points per game.
The guard strained his right hamstring during a 93-87 overtime loss to Milwaukee on Saturday and did not return. The team said he will be out for the foreseeable future. The 76ers are in sixth place in the East, 1 1/2 games ahead of seventh-place New York with five remaining. Philadelphia evidently missed Williams as it blew a 12-point lead against the Bucks and failed to win a season high-tying fourth straight.
"I talked to our guys a little bit about it. I said, 'That's what playoff basketball is going to be about. They're going to know all of our plays," coach Doug Collins said. "I know we picked it up back up in the fourth quarter. It's a shame we couldn't find a basket late in the game. We just couldn't make one."
The Sixers have dropped four of their last five games at Boston.
Read the full preview HERE.
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