BOSTON While the winner of the third quarter in this Boston-Philadelphia series has won every game in this series, the next-best indicator for success has to do with turnovers.
In the six games, the team that committed fewer turnovers has won all but one game.
In the lone exception - game one which the C's won 92-91 - a strong case was made by both the Sixers and the Celtics that Philadelphia played well enough to win that game and that Boston essentially stole the victory.
In Boston's three victories, they have turned the ball over just 10.6 times per game. In the defeats, that number rises to a whopping 17.7 turnovers per game.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has repeatedly talked about the importance of limiting mistakes against a Sixers team that thrives when given an opportunity to score in transition.
Philadelphia is has shot less than 46 percent in every game of this series thus far.
When it comes to scoring on fast-break opportunities, they're shooting 58.3 percent.
Although the C's don't want to see the Sixers get out and run, that doesn't by any means equates to them wanting to walk it up, either.
"We want to run, too, but we have to play good defense and rebound, to run how we want to," C's forward Mickael Pietrus told CSNNE.com. "If we get stops, you see it we can run some, too."
The Celtics are shooting 53.2 percent on fast-break scoring opportunities in this series.
Like turnovers, there's a huge discrepancy in how effective they are in wins as opposed to losses.
In their three wins, the C's are shooting 57.7 percent in fast-break scoring opportunities, compared to just 47.6 in their three losses.
Limiting turnovers and making the most of fast-break scoring opportunities are just a couple of factors that will decide who wins tonight and moves on to the Eastern Conference finals to face Miami. Here are some other keys to tonight's Game Seven matchup.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR - The Celtics are an older bunch, so maybe there's some truth to the thought that it takes them a while to get going. That certainly has been the case in most of the six games thus far against Philadelphia. In each of their three wins, Boston has trailed at the end of the first quarter only to bounce back and win the second quarter. No team likes to get down early, but it seems to be just what the Celtics have needed in order to be successful.
MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Elton Brand: This was about as lopsided a matchup as there was for the Celtics through the first three games. Since then, Brand has made this duel far more competitive. For the Celtics to win, Garnett has to do more than just score and rebound. He has to establish his presence around the basket, something he failed to do during the C's Game 6 loss in which he had 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. "Even though Kevin had points, it wasn't the points we needed, the type of points. So we have to do a better job there (going into Game Seven)."
PLAYER TO WATCH - This is the biggest - and potentially last - game of the season for the Celtics, the kind of scenario that tends to bring out the best in Rajon Rondo. When you throw in the fact that his Jrue Holiday (20 points, six assists) outplayed him in Game 6, a Rondo-esque performance in the triple-double neighborhood would not come as a surprise to anyone. Improved ball movement is one of the keys that all of the C's - Rondo included - have pointed to as being critical to their success in Game Seven tonight. "The ball stuck in Game Six," Rondo said. "Everyone tried to make the home run plays. It's not a bad thing everyone wants to do well for each other. The way we got to this situation, is moving the ball, sharing the ball. We have to go back to the basics and continue to try and get better."
STAT TO TRACK - Being the aggressor has been the one ingredient for success throughout this series, and nowhere is this more noticeable than at the free throw line. For the Celtics, getting to the free throw line - a lot - will be an absolute must for them to win. In their three victories in this series, the Celtics are averaging 26.7 free throw attempts. In the three losses, that number plummets to 17 per game. The numbers are pretty comparable for the Sixers. In their three wins, they're averaging 27 free throw attempts compared to 19.3 in their three defeats.