Five reasons Celtics are formidable foe

Paul Pierce is likely to take on Sixer Andre Iguodala, as he does here.
Paul Pierce is likely to take on Sixer Andre Iguodala, as he does here. (   CHARLES FOX / Staff)
Posted: May 13, 2012

Neither the 76ers nor the Boston Celtics had much time to think about Saturday's Game 1 of their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series. Both teams clinched their berths Thursday night.

"At least we don't have to travel," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after the Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks, 83-80, to advance. "It's a short turnaround, but I'd rather be going to Game 1 here [in Boston] than Game 7 in Atlanta."

As for facing the surprising Sixers, Rivers said he is ready to run.

"We've got a bunch of gazelles coming in here," Rivers said of the 76ers. "They only beat us by 1,000 points in two of our three games" in the regular season.

Actually, the Sixers beat the Celtics twice - once by 32 points, 103-71, and once by 13 points, 99-86. It may not have been a grand. But it was pretty impressive.

Here is a look at the Celtics' top five players:

Paul Pierce, forward, 6-foot-7, 21.2 ppg playoff average: The team's top scorer, Pierce had 18 points in Thursday's win over the Hawks despite playing with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

This guy can take over a game. Against the Hawks Thursday, Pierce came off the bench at one point in the second quarter and racked up five points and a steal in just four minutes.

He said after Thursday's game that he likes the rhythm of playing every other day, but his sore left knee could use some rest.

Pierce is likely to match up against 76ers forward Andre Iguodala.

Kevin Garnett, forward, 6-11, 18.7 ppg: He was the big gun Thursday against Atlanta, scoring 28 points with 14 rebounds, five blocked shots, and three steals.

Oh, yes - he also hit a huge go-ahead basket with 31 seconds left to eliminate the Hawks.

Garnett will likely face off against Sixers center Spencer Hawes.

Rajon Rondo, guard, 6-1, 16.8 ppg: The point guard had an impressive series against the Hawks and helped fill the scoring void as Ray Allen continued to struggle with an injured ankle. He exploded for three assists and four points during a 16-0 run in the second quarter Thursday against the Hawks. He had 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists in Game 3 against Atlanta.

He will be expected to defend Sixers scorers Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams.

Ray Allen, guard, 6-5, 11.8 ppg: The NBA's all-time leading three-point shooter has had a rough go of it this season.

He returned to action in Game 3 of the Atlanta series after being out since April 10 with bone spurs in his right ankle. Then, he was just 1 for 7 from beyond the arc in Game 6 against the Hawks Thursday Then, on Friday, he said he had a setback in his recovery and is back to where he was a couple of weeks ago. Another injury to a star player that could benefit the Sixers.

Brandon Bass, forward, 6-8, 9.0 ppg: He has played a nice complementary role, averaging 9 points per game and avoiding ill-timed turnovers. He had 14 points in Game 5 against the Hawks, and only he and Rondo played more than 30 minutes in Game 4 for the Celtics.

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