After a grueling, and sometimes very ugly seven game series, we now know who will meet the Miami Heat for a shot at the NBA Finals. And it’s none other then the Boston Celtics. But I’ll be damned if the 76ers didn’t give them all they could handle and then some over the last couple of weeks.
Led by a Rajon Rondo triple double (18/10/10), the Celtics advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in the era of the Big Three, and have a chance to go to the NBA Finals for a third time in that span as well.
The Celtics once again used their vaunted defense to close this series out. They forced the 76ers in to yet another awful offensive night, highlighted by 35% shooting and 15 turnovers (compared to just 15 assists). But that’s pretty much been the run of the mill for the 76ers the entire playoffs. They’ve never really been able to mount any type of offense during this postseason, and tonight was no exception.
Andre Iguodala led the way of the 76ers, scoring 18 points, including three of his five attempts from behind the arc, in what would be his best game of this series. It’s unfortunate for him that he didn’t get too much help.
Elton Brand did chip in with 15, while Jrue Holiday also scored 15, though he hit just five of his 17 shots in the process. Shy of those three though, the 76ers didn’t get much help elsewhere, as the rest of the team scored a combined 27 points, hitting just 12/41 from the floor.
For the 76ers though, this has been an issue the entire postseason. When you’re a team without a superstar to anchor you, you have to rely on the sum of all your parts, and far too frequently some of those parts didn’t show up – especially in this series, and definitely tonight.
Shy of Rondo’s brilliance, the Celtics also saw the rest of their starters hit double figures, including an 18 point and 13 rebound double double from Kevin Garnett.
Hero of the Game: Rajon Rondo
Not only did he have a triple double for the third time this postseason, Rondo also had a string of nine straight points that turned what just a three point lead in to a double figure lead. He also scored 11 of those 18 points in the fourth quarter. And when offense is coming at a premium the way it did in this series, it’s huge to be able to get 11 points from one player in a period.
Zero of the Game: The Philadelphia Bench
While I could have just as easily gone with Evan Turner or Spencer Hawes, I’m going to just zero in on the entire bench. This bench was supposed to be a strength of the 76ers, but it proved otherwise tonight. Sixth man extraordinaire Lou Williams scored just seven points, while Thaddeus Young scored just six. Chip in two apiece from Lavoy Allen and Jodie Meeks and you have one awful performance from what’s supposed to be one of the best benches in basketball. And on a night when two of their starters were having awful games, they couldn’t afford this type of performance.
By winning tonight, Boston got themselves a date with Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. Those tip of Monday, and it should prove to be a very interesting series. So far, Boston has completely shut down two offenses en route to this match up, but will they be able to do the same against the Heat? I think it’s certainly possible, just because of how good this teams team defense is, I think it’s going to give LeBron and Wade fits. It’s also interesting to note that the status of Chris Bosh is still up in the air for game one. They NEED him healthy if they’re going to win this series. While they were able to get away without him against a young and inexperienced Pacers team, they need him against a team that’s battle tested like the Celtics. If they don’t have him, expect Boston to completely dominate down low with Bass and Garnett (which they still could, seeing as how Bosh is terrible on defense).
Anyways, I’ll not get ahead of myself with that series. For the 76ers, they’re in for what could be an interesting offseason. While they might not think they need to do any retooling, they might want to rethink that. This team is in dire need of a big time player that can give them some consistency throughout the regular season and post season. It’s a bit of a thin market as far as free agents go, but there’s always the trade route. One name that could be tossed around is Pau Gasol. Would Philadelphia or the Lakers go for a Iguodala for Pau swap? It’s certainly possible, and he would give them a reliable option in the post and as an overall scorer. Again though, I won’t get ahead of myself or speculate things like that, I just think, in order for this franchise to move forward, they need to bring in an impact player this offseason, even if it means giving up on a guy like Iguodala.