BOSTON – The Philadelphia 76ers know how to beat the Boston Celtics. They’ve done it five times already this year. So for them, Game 7 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC) is about execution and focus. Every possession counts, now more than ever.
“You just try to keep showing guys on tape things they’re doing,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said of preparing his players for the biggest game most of them have ever played in. “We can’t come in here and have dead possessions. You’ve got to be really focused and making sure that every time, both offensively and defensively, that you know what you’re doing on the floor. Offensively, so you can get good shots. And defensively, so you have a chance to defend and then, hopefully, get out in the open court.”
Speaking after his team’s shootaround, Collins said that his team can’t have any lapses.
“We talked to our guys about every time they get the chance, huddling up and making sure everybody knows what we’ve got out on the floor.”
The Sixers have had plenty of offensive droughts in this series already, but they may have found a formula for offensive success in the second half of Game 6, when they attacked Boston’s guards and got into the paint.
Jrue Holiday said the key to avoiding an extended drought is to “try to get to the free throw line, try to get to the basket. I know there’s a lot of times when we go through those droughts and we try to shoot jump shots. If you don’t make the jump shot, you probably lose a little bit of confidence.”
Win or lose, this playoff run should benefit the Sixers long-term. Their young players have gained a ton of big-game experience over the first two rounds.
“To me, a Game 7 like this is worth about ten regular season games,” Collins said, “when you start talking about the magnitude of the game and all that goes with it.”
“The playoffs helps any player,” Holiday added. “We’re a young, up-and-coming team, playing against veterans. There’s a lot just to learn from that.”
For the Sixers, this is basically their championship. Getting to the conference finals would be a tremendous accomplishment. And if they get there, they might have a hard time just winning a game.
The Sixers know they’ll be overmatched against the Miami Heat. Just listen to what Collins said when he was asked about his team’s confidence going into Game 7 against the Celtics…
“In the regular season, we beat them twice. And in the playoffs, we’ve beaten ‘em three times. I think it would be a much tougher sell for our guys if we were getting ready to play the Miami Heat in a game situation where they’ve sort of dominated us the whole season long. Now, you’re trying to get your team to believe when you haven’t beaten a team all season long. From our standpoint, when you’ve beaten a team, you should have some confidence that you can do that.”
That doesn’t mean the Sixers wouldn’t be competitive against the Heat. They’ve grown quite a bit in the last month, and they’re not the same team that they were in the regular season or in last year’s first round.
But you’d better believe that this game means a ton to this franchise and these players. And they believe they have what it takes to win it.