Andre Iguodala and the Philadelphia 76ers gave the Celtics everything they could handle in the opening game of the second round, but Boston would not be denied at home in the fourth quarter and edged Philly in a 92-91 win. Kevin Garnett led the Celts with 29 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in a dominant performance that gave his team a 1-0 series lead despite a very impressive effort from the Sixers.
I predicted that Boston would win this series in five games, and I still stand by that prediction, but Philadelphia definitely played like a worthy second-round opponent in Game 1. Andre Iguodala led Philly with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Evan Turner had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Hawes pitched in 15 points and eight boards of his own. I predicted that Spencer Hawes would not be a factor, that Avery Bradley and the Celtics’ D would shut down Philly’s streaking guards (Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams) and that Kevin Garnett would be dominant against Hawes. Two out of three isn’t bad: Garnett single-handedly led Boston to victory and Holiday and Williams combined for just 17 points on 7-of-24 shooting. And although Hawes was much more productive on the offensive end than I thought he’d be, as long as the Celtics duplicate their effort in Game 1, they should have few problems closing this series up quickly.
The fact is, Iguodala had to put up quite a valiant shooting performance (especially from beyond the arc) to keep Philadelphia in the game. With Bradley limiting Philly’s guards, Iguodala became the Sixers’ primary scorer, and if he starts to take the majority of his team’s shots, we could see another performance like Game 5 against the Bulls, when he went 4-for-19. Iguodala is not a consistent 3-point shooter and the Sixers are not likely to out-shoot the Celtics from downtown like they did in Game 1 (Philly shot 5-for-14 from 3-point range while Boston shot a dismal 2-for-18). If the Celtics start hitting their 3-pointers, the Sixers won’t be able to keep up on the offensive end, even with their terrific team defense.
Kevin Garnett should continue to exploit his matchup on the offensive end, but keep in mind that Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo have stellar performances in Game 1 and the Celtics still got the win. Yes, Rondo had yet another triple double (13 points, 17 assists, 12 rebounds), but other than his clear ability to facilitate, it wasn’t the strongest triple double in the world and we’ve come to overvalue triple doubles these days anyway. But regardless, Rondo and Pierce can still score more if they shoot the ball better (Pierce was 3-for-11 and Rondo was 6-for-15). Credit Philadelphia’s defense for making it difficult on two of Boston’s three best players, but whether or not they can do it consistently over the course of a series with an early one game deficit remains to be seen. Philadelphia did win their last series after being faced with an early deficit, but it took a myriad of injuries to the Bulls for that to happen. Unless Paul Pierce’s sprained MCL develops into something worse and completely takes him out of the series, Boston is looking just fine despite the narrow Game 1 victory.