The first two games of this NBA Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series could not be much closer, with the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics and eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers each winning one game by one point heading into Game 3 on Wednesday. The scene now shifts from Boston to Philadelphia, where the Sixers were able to win all three games against the Chicago Bulls in the previous round.
Philly went 2-1 against the spread in those three wins over the Bulls and has gone 2-0 ATS in the first two games against the Celtics. The 76ers are 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings overall with Boston, including 4-1 in the past five. They took the lead for good in Game 2 on an Evan Turner layup with 40.4 seconds remaining and then hit 6 of 6 free throws in the final 12 seconds to pull out an 82-81 victory on Monday. Boston had rallied back for a 92-91 win in Game 1 on Saturday.
Philadelphia has won the last three home meetings with the Celtics both SU and ATS and need to continue to start fast to put pressure on them early on. The 76ers led by 10 points after the first quarter in Game 1 and outscored Boston by 10 in the third quarter of Game 2 to put themselves in position to steal the game.
Philly point guard Jrue Holiday is a tough defensive matchup for Celtics star Rajon Rondo and needs to run the floor and keep him preoccupied throughout Game 3 like he has in the previous two. Holiday scored a game-high 18 points in Game 2 and helped limit Rondo to eight points on 4 of 12 shooting from the field. Another key for the Sixers is limiting Boston power forward Kevin Garnett, who exploded for 29 points and 11 rebounds in Game 1. Garnett was held to 15 points and 12 boards in Game 2, and somebody needs to step up offensively for the Celts to be successful.
Boston small forward Paul Pierce has usually been the guy to shine, but he is clearly bothered by a knee injury that has kept him from shooting the ball well. Pierce has made just 5 of 20 shots and totaled 21 points combined through the first two games after averaging 18 in seven games against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. Without Pierce healthy, the Celtics are in dire need of a scorer, something that Rondo definitely is not and Garnett has not been for years. That being said. Philadelphia head coach Doug Collins did an excellent job of exposing Chicago’s injures in the first round and will find a way to tire out this aging Boston team again in Game 3.
Free NBA Pick: Philadelphia 76ers -2
"Vegas" Matty Simo is the owner of Content Champs Consulting, offering clients over 20 years experience with winning content development & online marketing solutions and specializing in sportswriting. Matty began writing about sports gambling in 1996 with Computer Sports World, which later became DBC Sports and Vegas Insider. He was named Senior Editor of DBC Sports in 1997 and worked alongside legendary oddsmaker Michael “Roxy” Roxborough on a nationally syndicated column called Sports Book Insider. He later founded Content Champs to continue his passion for sports, betting and writing.