|12.18.09 at 11:37 am ET|
What a wonderful thing hindsight can be. In the summer of 2007, the Celtics traded most of their accumulated young talent and assets to acquire Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. This bold action by Danny Ainge has obviously proved to be brilliant thanks to a championship and two-plus years of contention. It seems obvious now, but at the time there was concern that Ainge had given away the store for a couple of vets with a lot of mileage on their odometers, even vets whose final destination was the Hall of Fame.
In the summer of 2008, new Sixers general manager Ed Stefansi thought he had also pulled off a brilliant coup by signing free agent Elton Brand to a massive five-year contract. It seemed obvious then that adding an automatic low-post scorer to a young, athletic, perimeter-oriented team would be a difference-maker. Less then two years in, Stefanski’s power play has proven dubious at best, and franchise-wrecking at worst.
So dubious that Stefanski was compelled to hire Allen Iverson for one last go-round in a desperate attempt to boost attendance. After a sold-out debut, the fans have stayed away and Iverson is hurt after playing too many minutes too fast. Now the Sixers are just another bad NBA team with too many bad contracts and no direction.
CELTICS (20-4, 10-0 last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.8
Points Allowed: 91.2
Differential: +9.6 (First)
Offensive Efficiency: 110.0 (Ninth)
Defensive Efficiency: 99.4 (First)
Pace: 91.3 (24th)
SIXERS (6-19, 1-9 last 10)
Points Per Game: 97.2
Points Allowed: 101.6
Differential: – 4.4 (26th)
Offensive Efficiency: 106. 7 (17th)
Defensive Efficiency: 111.4 (28th)
Pace: 90.8 (27th)
Injuries: Allen Iverson (knee), Lou Williams (jaw)
Key Matchup: Allen and Pierce vs. Iguodala and Young
One of the side effects of the Brand signing is that Iguodala was forced to slide down to the off-guard position and Young to the small forward spot. During their short time together, Iguodala and Young have proven far more capable as forwards, albeit undersized forwards. Brand changed that dynamic and while it’s not his fault that his general manager didn’t understand his own team’s dynamic, it has proven to be an ill fit. Still, Iguodala and Young are a tough matchup for whoever draws the assignment.
Celtics in a Paragraph: The regular season is a process. A long, slow, drawn-out process. Right now the Celtics are playing their best basketball of the season, and have a nice stretch of spread-out home games to continue their winning ways before embarking on a west coast road trip with a stopover in Orlando on Christmas Day. Until then their enemy is the process.
Sixers in a Paragraph: For all that is wrong with Philly, there is one thing they do well and that one thing has proven to be the Celtics Achilles heel — offensive rebounding. Keep the Sixers off the offensive glass and there isn’t much left in their bag of tricks. Philly racked up 12 offensive rebounds in its last meeting with the Celtics, which helped the Sixers stay in the game until Rondo took over in the fourth quarter.
What to Watch For: In one of the more bizarre subplots of the NBA season, three of the Celtics four losses have come at home on Friday nights. It’s not much to go on if you’re the Sixers, but it beats hoping Holiday can keep up with Rondo.