- Green Street - http://greenstreet.weei.com -

Preview: Celtics-Sixers

A question that has been hanging in the air during this Celtics [1] season: Should they be more aggressive? Should the Celtics [2] be a little more (choose your adjective here) physical, punishing, nasty?

Paul Pierce [3] certainly thought so. “That’s who are, truthfully,” he said after Wednesday’s game that featured a minor run-in with Stephen Jackson [4]. “We’re a team that usually intimidates.” Pierce was quick to add that he didn’t advocate crossing whatever arbitrary line is drawn in the NBA sand these days regarding physical play.

Certainly the Celtics aren’t about to emulate the 90’s “no layups” Knicks [5], mostly because the rules have changed to the point where no one can play that kind of rough and tumble basketball without getting half the roster suspended. The Celtics are up among the league leaders in technical fouls with 77 (Orlando [6] of all teams is the leader in the clubhouse with 79), but that’s more agitation than intimidation.

They’ve been called bullies and trash talkers before, but that’s a different thing, as well. The Celtics have played 59 games and they still seem like a team that is searching for an identity. Perhaps their old one fit just fine.

SIXERS [7] (22-38, 3-7 last 10)

Points Per Game: 97.6

Points Allowed: 101.0

Differential: -3.4 (21st)

Offensive Efficiency: 105.6 (21st)

Defensive Efficiency: 109.2 (22nd)

Pace: 91.8 (21st)

Likely Staters: Jrue Holiday [8], Lou Williams [9], Andre Iguodala [10], Thaddeus Young [11], Sam Dalembert [12]

Injuries: Elton Brand [13] (Achilles, questionable), Mareese Speights [14] (Knee, questionable), Allen Iverson [15] (Personal)

CELTICS (38-21, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.7

Points Allowed: 94.1

Differential: +4.6 (7th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.1 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.1 (2nd)

Pace: 91.7 (22nd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo [16], Ray Allen [17], Paul Pierce, [3] Kevin Garnett [18], Kendrick Perkins [19]

Injuries: None.

Key Matchup: Paul Pierce [20] vs. Andre Iguodala [21]

Iguodala is, for better or worse, the face of the Sixers franchise. He is a fine all-around player and a potential All-Star each season. He is not, however, a great player no matter how you choose to define that designation. He remains Philly’s most productive player and will be yet another test for Pierce as he attempts to re-establish himself after his various injuries.

The Sixers in a Paragraph: It would take more words than could fit in this space to describe everything that has gone wrong with this team. The Cliff Notes version: Bad contracts, poor off-season decision-making, a coach whose offense doesn’t fit the personnel, fan apathy, a desperate, and failed, attempt to cash in on nostalgia and finally, a complete and total lack of direction. Oh, and Allen Iverson [22] left the team and is likely to go through a very public and painful divorce [23]. That about covers it.

The Celtics in a Paragraph: It’s Game Three on the C’s road to redemption since the New Jersey [24] debacle. Do you believe yet? The honest answer is no, not really. Rolling through this part of the schedule will help answer questions about focus, but we won’t know really where they stand until they play the Cavs [25] again next Sunday.

What to Watch For: The Sixers rank 29th in the league in attendance and there is some thought that even their announced numbers are inflated. Playing in front of a half-empty building is a challenge in and of itself. Once again, it’s all about energy for the Celtics. They got a boost of it from Nate Robinson [26] who seems to have settled into his role as instant offense off the bench quite nicely after only four games. Now they need to have some at the start of the game, as well.