BOSTON The Boston Celtics have a 1-0 series edge over Philadelphia doing what they did better than any team in the NBA this past season -- lock down defensively in the fourth quarter. After falling behind by as many as 10 points in the fourth on Saturday, the C's rallied for a 92-91 win.
In that fourth quarter, Boston limited the Sixers to 20 points.
During the regular season, the C's held opponents to a league-low 21.3 points scored in the fourth quarter.
"They are better at closing games because of their experience," said Sixers forward Elton Brand. "Just being used to that high-intensity level. They did it in championship games. The first game of the second round, they're pretty comfortable. That gives them an advantage there. But we won some close ones in Chicago and that helped us learn how to do it."
The ability to finish games will indeed be a factor in tonight's Game 2 matchup as the Celtics look to go up 2-0 in their best-of-seven series.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- Paul Pierce can't move about as well as he would like to, courtesy of a sprained MCL in his left knee. However, he is finding other ways to make an impact for the Celtics. In Game 1, he missed eight of his 11 shots but still grabbed six rebounds and had six assists in addition to blocking two shots.
MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Brandon Bass vs. Elton Brand: Both of these are more than overdue for a breakout game for their respective teams. Bass has been more hesitant lately to shoot, often a sign of a player whose confidence isn't quite where it was earlier. As for Brand, he's a victim of the Celtics' small ball lineup cutting his minutes, and emergence of rookie Lavoy Allen (12 points on 5-for-7 shooting in Game 1) and the solid play of Spencer Hawes (15 points, eight rebounds) around the basket. "Brand was struggling a little bit, and Lavoy was playing great (in Game 1)," said Sixers coach Doug Collins. "I think the guys know that at this point in time, I have to go with the guys that are playing well." In Game 1, Brand had four points and one rebound in 15 minutes.
PLAYER TO WATCH -- Ray Allen did more for the Celtics in Game 1 than his 12 points might have indicated. His mere presence opened things up for Garnett around the basket, along with creating better driving lanes for Rajon Rondo (13 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds). The Celtics were a plus-17 with Allen on the floor, far and away the best plusminus ratio of the 19 players for both teams to see action.
STAT TO TRACK -- Despite out-rebounding Philadelphia 45-41 in Game 1, the Sixers still had a decisive edge (15-6) in second-chance points. The Sixers ranked 23rd in second-chance points during the regular season, and are 10th (among 16 teams) in the playoffs. For the C's, Game 1 was indicative of their inability all season to capitalize on multiple-shot opportunities. The Celtics were dead-last (out of 30 teams) with 9.9 second-chance points per game, during the regular season. They haven't been much better in the playoffs, averaging just 8.7 second-chance points per game which ranks 14th (out of 16 teams).