Game 7 is not for the faint of heart. that it Tightrope walking straight razor. Those who stumble will suffer a 500-foot drop in reputation. Waiting for Persistence on the other side, though? Glory, horsepower and renewed hope in lifting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
One game, winner takes all; To survive and advance, you lose and go home. It’s the nature of competition, distilled: win or misery.
the Celtics And 76ers You have a chance to take one and avoid the other, with anchors in the final four NBA games hanging in the balance. Here are some important questions to consider as we wait for them to take their first steps on that high wire:
Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
1. Will Philly also change their starting line-up?
Joe Mazzola’s decision to change the playing cards in Game 6, replacing the starting lineup by substituting a guard Derek White With Robert Williams’ third place, it paid huge dividends for Boston. Williams’ breakthrough last season helped propel the Celtics to the NBA Finals, but a comeback up and down from off-season knee surgery — along with stellar play by White as part of a younger appearance emboldened Boston’s shooting and playmaking — at times Leaving Timelord relegated to the outskirts of the Celtics tournament. But on Thursday, he made his presence felt earlier and more often.
It wasn’t just the ten points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes, though, with Williams in the mix Hit on the attack glass And Fly over the defense of the lobes Certainly not hurt. It was more about how he was positioned alongside Al Horford allowing Boston to stifle the Kant offense I got to cook in the Sixers Game 5 win:
With Williams backing off PJ Tucker to help seal the paint and take down the Sixers Looks like bread and butter Among the Joel Embiid-James Harden pick-and-roll, Philly scored just 32 points in 19 minutes which Williams and Horford played together, according to NBA.com lineup data, they shot 10-for-23 inside the arc and 3-for-11 outside of it. The Sixers’ record is woeful 80 points per 100 possessions in those 19 minutes – 20,000 leagues less than Top three full season markand not near the level of productivity that they mustered Their three wins in the series.
“He’s in the paint, so it’s like the paint is jammed,” 76ers guard Therese Maxey to reporters after the game. “That was new for us. But I mean, we knew they were going to do it, we knew they were going to try it. I think we’ll be better next game.”
Things got a little better, though, when Doc Rivers moved Tucker to the bench in favor of combo guard De’Anthony Melton or forward George Nyang. Placing the better prepared and potentially more threatening shooter in the corner helped ease the congestion of the Sixers offense in the half court; On 17 minutes with Milton O’Nyang sharing the ground with Embiid, Harden, Maxie and Tobias Harris, Philly outmaneuvered Boston. with seven points.
These results matched the production of the regular season which saw Philly score as gangbusters with both Garnish plus Milton And Garnish plus niang Lined up on the ground – albeit in small samples, likely due to how much Rivers trusted and appreciated Tucker on defense hardnessAnd communication And Leadership. At this point, though, a little sample could change everything, be it a string of properties in the middle of Part III, Final 5:57 of the fourth …or the defining opening minutes of a winner-takes-all war.
“We will put [Tucker] More on the ground when there’s a big one, we’ll put a George or Milton on the ground when there are two,” Rivers he said after the match.
Will he do it right from the start? If so, can Niang – who is widely seen as a defensive liability but has acquitted himself surprisingly well in this finale in the series – continue to hold up well enough under questioning about this ending in the game 7 to give his shot a chance to ease Boston’s shot. Defense and returns the math in favor of Philly? Will Melton can get the open look he’ll get when C assists him, as he did in going 9-for-13 from deep in Games 1 and 3, or coming up empty, as he did in losing all eight triples he tried in the other four games (including Three backbreakers Late in the fourth of the game 6)? Or Doc will trust Tucker to make triples – like Grant Williams did for the Boston Vs The seventh game of the second round last year – and make enough impact elsewhere to neutralize the looming Timelord menace?
2. Will you make or miss Boston’s Boston?
It’s not particularly obvious to say that a team is more likely to win when it shoots well than when it doesn’t, but it was very true of this Boston group. When the Celts shoot 40% or better as a team this season, they do it 35-2; When they shoot less than 40%, they are 29-28.
When the Celtics were 4-for-13 in the paint in the first quarter of Game 6 and with Jason Tatum still Direction Five Games From not being able to hit the wide side of the fold early on, getting a combined six long balls from White, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon still saw them gain the advantage. A drive-and-kake, catch and catch three by Jaylen Brown helped Smart and White push the lead to 16 midway through the second. And when Philly took control halfway through the fourth, it was Tatum’s closing barrage — 4 threes in the final 4:14 — that left the sextet staring at the ceiling, wondering what hit them:
This is the team Boston was built to be: a high-volume 3-point shooter, and therefore a high-variance team. It gives the C’s a chance to put up quirky numbers even against an opponent who shows an inside threat closing the lane – they average 13.4 points in the paint per game in this series What they did against Atlanta in Round 1and shooting only 54.1% on the edge when competing against Embiid, according to The second spectrum — and at this point in the season, she should still be their calling card even if things get messy.
We’ve seen first-shooters swing onto the ice from the perimeter in the Crucible of Game 7. (The bearded guy who wore number 1 on the Sixers on one of them.) If Boston opens up a cliffhanger on Sunday, fans in the stands at the TD Garden will likely find themselves begging for Tatum, Brown (whom no one on Philadelphia’s roster can stay ahead of) and the rest of the Celtics’ ball coaches to just put his head down and get in the paint. Embiid challenged or tried to reach the free throw line. It may be more likely, though, that the team that Brad Stevens built and the players Mazzola coached will continue to shoot, trust the process (cough) and believe that the shots they’ve dropped all season will go down. When money is on the table, you have to dance with whoever gave you, and hope you end up on top when the music stops.
3. Will the stars of Philly shrink or shine?
Harden arguably had the two greatest postseason games of his career in this series. (You can file a case for His performance is 38-10-9 against the Warriors in the 2015 Western Conference Finals…but that ended with him coming off a fast break with one out in the final seconds with a chance to win it by Feel the ball as time runs out.) He also had three of his worst, going 9-for-44 from the field and 2-for-19 from 3-point range in Sixers losses in Games 2, 3, and 6.
Philly desperately needs him to strike some kind of balance – as he did in a terrific Game 5 to set the table, which also happens to be Embiid and Maxey’s best offensive performance of the series – to have a chance at winning Boston for the third time in this series. He doesn’t have to be the all-out inferno of Games 1 and 4, but he couldn’t be the evil Seeker in Game 6, diving into crowds, stumbling to the ground, begging for rescue calls and grabbing when he didn’t get them. Sixers fans can only hope Harden doesn’t put up with the woeful frustration that was spilled on Thursday…
…on a Sunday offers not only another opportunity to send Philadelphia to the Conference Finals for the first time in 22 yearsbut also to one of the greatest offensive players ever to radically reshape his postseason legacy.
If Harden can pull off a bad Game 6 and do what he’s done all season – healthfacilitate, excel in a more integral role – then it will be up to the new MVP to do what he He’s been done all season: prove he can’t be guarded no matter what scheme or opponent, and bend the game to his great will.
with 3:30 to go on Game 6Embiid has 26 points on 9-for-19 shooting done with … 26 points on 9-for-19. In a related story, The Sixers Score 1 point along the stretch before Rivers waved the white flag and pulled his starter.
“We had a lot of wide open shots, and we just didn’t make it. We stopped moving the ball. And I don’t think I touched the ball in the last four minutes of the game,” Embiid said. to reporters after the game. “I missed a lot of looking good. I didn’t touch the ball at all.”
Obviously, this is something Boston works very hard for Make It is happening. Everywhere Embiid went in that late stretch, Horford followed, usually with at least one teammate joining him to make traffic and try to dissuade Philly from passing the ball to the senior fellow. But it’s also, obviously, something like that can not allow It is happening.
You have to get them to hit the fastball, and for Philadelphia, that’s getting the ball into Embiid’s hands — on the nail, Bloc, at the top of the key, wherever the hell he is – and give him the opportunity to decide your fate. A year ago, Philadelphia’s season ended with the disappearance of one of its stars, lamenting how The ball is no longer his.. Things should be different on Sunday; If not, the outcome could be exactly the same.