Sixers and Celtics renew rivalry in East semis
But, older followers of The Association know better and if you grew up as a
Sixers or Celtics loyalist in the 1960s or 80s, you were a part of the
greatest rivalry in sports.
If you think the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees’ enmity is intense now –
you would have been captivated by the Sixers and Celtics. You see, comparing
anything to Wilt’s Sixers versus Russell’s Celtics or Dr. J with his hands
around Larry Bird’s throat would be like saying Mayweather-Cotto was the equal
The Sixers and Celtics had it all — history, passion, hate, envy and perhaps
what fuels a rivalry most — similar talent on both sides.
That storied conflict will be renewed in the Eastern Conference semifinals
when the two Atlantic Division combatants square off starting Saturday night
Boston, the No. 5 seed which has won five straight Atlantic crowns since
bringing in future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to team with
Paul Pierce, punched its ticket to the semis by jettisoning fourth-seeded
Atlanta in six games.
Garnett swished a turnaround jumper with 30.4 seconds remaining to put the
Celtics in front during the clincher and they held on from there for a
dramatic 83-80 victory at TD Garden.
“Anytime you go through a series and you’re able to come on top, that’s always
a plus,” Garnett said. “Sure now we’ll relax and enjoy this a little bit and
then get back to work tomorrow, but yeah, it feels good.”
Boston has now advanced to the second round of the playoffs in every year
since its “Big Three” was put together in 2007, twice reaching the NBA Finals
and winning one championship in ’08.
The Sixers, meanwhile, also advanced in six games, becoming just the fifth
eight-seed in NBA history to dispose of a No. 1 by taking out the injury-
plagued Chicago Bulls.
The embattled Andre Iguodala drained two free throws with 2.2 seconds to play
in Game 6 to lift Philadelphia to its first postseason series win since 2003
in a thrilling 79-78 affair.
“I don’t know how you could write a better script,” said Sixers head coach
Doug Collins. “(Andre) struggled all year at the foul line, stepped up and
made two free throws to win a playoff series to get to the second round for
the first time.”
Many consider Philadelphia topping Chicago as fool’s gold since the Bulls were
without superstar point Derrick Rose and starting center Joakim Noah for most
of the series. That said, the Bulls still thought they had enough pieces to
beat a flawed Sixers team and is instead looking for tee times.
“Things change so quickly,” Collins said. “Joakim Noah the other day steps on
an ankle. We saw Derrick Rose blow out a knee. You’ve got to take care of your
So far the 76ers have and their next order of business is in Boston.
“I think it [winning in the first round] was just a stepping stone for a young
group of guys to come together,” Sixers guard Lou Williams said. “Obviously we
have had our ups and downs. We started out the season on fire and then we
didn’t’ have as much success, so it has been a roller coaster. It just feels
good to prevail and move on to the second round.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers did not sound optimistic that he would have Pierce
and Allen anywhere near full strength for Game 1 tonight after a short two-day
turnaround for both clubs.
“It’s a challenge because of a bodies,” Rivers said before the Celtics’ film
session and light shootaround on Saturday. “The Sixers are pretty healthy,
we’re not, so that’s the challenge. Ray is struggling today, Paul is
struggling today. That’s a challenge. The only advantage we have is we don’t
have to get on a plane. Our guy can sleep in their beds tonight and tomorrow
night and get some rest.”
Both Pierce and Allen sat out Friday’s walkthrough, following the shootaround.
Pressed as to whether Pierce or Allen were closer to being ready for Game 1,
Rivers sounded an ominous tone.
“I don’t [know],” he said. “I’m concerned with both, to be honest. I don’t
even want to give a percentage.”
Pierce is dealing with a sprained MCL in his left knee, suffered last Sunday
before Game 4 against Atlanta. Allen, meanwhile, reported feeling no
improvement from stiffness and soreness from bone spurs in his left ankle.
“Yeah, I expect to play,” Pierce said. “I feel like I can play [Saturday]. I’m
just getting the treatments. I’m dealing with a sprained knee, getting as much
ice as possible. It’s probably not going to heal until the season is over so
I’m just doing the necessary steps that I can to make sure I don’t overdo it
or put myself in a position where I could really hurt my career.”
This rivalry began all the way back in 1952-53 when the Sixers franchise
called Syracuse home. Since the team relocated to the City of Brotherly Love,
the 76ers and Celtics have met in the postseason 11 different times and eight
of those were Eastern Conference finals. Boston has taken seven of the 11
series and is 50-43 overall in the playoffs against Philadelphia.
This season, however, the Sixers won two of three over the Celtics with each
team holding serve on its home floor. Philadelphia routed Boston in the first
meeting of the season at Wells Fargo Center on March 7 and won easily again 16
days later, in South Philly, before the Celtics rebounded on Easter Sunday by
routing the Sixers 103-79.
Game 2 of the set will take place Monday in Boston.
- Report: Pelicans’ Vasquez set for ankle surgery
- Grizzlies’ Allen fined for flopping
- Pacers try to regroup for Game 2 of East Finals
- Nothin’ but Net: To Hibbert, or not to Hibbert
- James, Durant headline All-NBA First Team
- James beats the buzzer in OT as Heat take Game 1
- Spurs hold off Grizzlies in OT
- Cavs win lottery for 2nd time in 3 years
- Bobcats formally apply to change back to Hornets
- Del Negro out as Clippers coach