NBA preview: Celtics vs. 76ers, Lakers vs. Thunder

Daniel Romero-Salas
A breakdown of the Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers, and LA Lakers vs. Oklahoma Thunder match-ups.

MANILA, Philippines – With the NBA 2nd round playoffs heating up, Rappler breaks down the match-ups and gives you a comprehensive take on the 2nd round playoffs.

Here’s all you need to know about the Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers, and the Oklahoma Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers.

For a breakdown of Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Clippers, click here.

BOSTON CELTICS vs. PHILADELPHIA 76ers

Season series: 2-1 Philadelphia
The 76ers are just the 5th team in history to beat a 1 seed as an 8 seed. Having overcome the Chicago Bulls the 76ers face a familiar Atlantic division foe in the Boston Celtics. The Celtics dealt with the Atlanta Hakws in 6 games but are looking vulnerable due to injuries. Here are some intriguing matchups and facts to know about the upcoming series.

Point Guard: Jrue Holiday has progressed greatly in the past two years but is still no match for Rajon Rondo. Rondo currently leads all players in assists per game this postseason with 12.7 a game. He’s second in the league in steals with 3.5 a game and has increased his rebounding to 6.7 a game. Not bad for a 6’1” point guard.

Rappler says: Advantage Celtics

Shooting Guard: Ray Allen has been hobbled by bone spurs in his ankles during the first round series against the Hawks. He has averaged 11.75 points and surprisingly shot 61.5% from the free throw line.  His three point shooting percentage has dipped to its lowest in his career in the playoffs at 28%. For the 76ers, Evan Turner has claimed the starting position from Jodie Meeks and provided perimeter toughness and rebounding at the position. Turner has averaged 11.6 points per game somewhat cancelling out Allen but Turner will struggle chasing Allen screens but if his ankle is still hurting Turner’s size could punish Ray in the post. 

Rappler says: Even

EDITOR’S NOTE: After watching the first game between the two teams Evan Turner ended up guarding Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday was put on Ray Allen.

Small Forward: Paul Pierce averaged 21.2 points per game and 6.3 in the previous series but will have to deal with Andre Iguodala guarding him now. In the last 5 years Paul Pierce has attempted the fewest field goal attempts and free throw attempts against 1 team, the Philadelphia 76ers. Andre Iguodala is the reason for that. Because Pierce is suffering from a sprained MCL his shooting percentage has dipped to 41.3% and only 32.1% from three point territory, his ability to get to the free throw line is his way of getting easy points but Andre will try to prevent that.

Rappler says: Slight advantage Celtics

Power Forward: Elton Brand and Brandon Bass are essentially the same player at this point. Brand used to be a 20-10 player for the Clippers but on this team he provides veteran leadership, rebounding, shot blocking and mid range jump shooting. The majority of Bass’ shots come from 16-23 feet where he is shooting 48% while Brand does his damage from 10-15 feet also shooting 48%.

Rappler says: Even

Center: With Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O’neal both out for the season Garnett’s game has been revitalized after being moved to center. Garnett is back to his old Minnesota days averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. His biggest strength at center now is his quickness and Spencer Hawes (never known for his defense) will have his hands full.

Rappler says: Advantage Celtics

Bench: Philadelphia’s leading scorer surprisingly comes off the bench. Lou Williams is the best shot creator with the ball. He excels at two for one shot opportunities his teammates have nicknamed him “Lou for one.” Another weapon the 76ers have is Thaddeus Young; standing 6’7” he has the size of a small forward but plays as a power forward because of his ability to get layups off cuts and offensive rebounds. Young is the 3rd leading scorer on the team and creates matchup nightmares on the offensive end. Ray Allen technically comes off the bench but plays starter’s minutes so the Celtics bench consists of Avery Bradley, Marquis Daniels, Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling , Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins. Only Bradley has averages more than 4 points per game this post season.

Rappler says: Advantage 76ers

Overall: The key for this series is whose offense can execute. The Celtics had the 24th worst offense this year while Philadelphia was 17th. Whichever team can consistently run their offense and hit shots will come out the winner.

Rappler says: Celtics in 6

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER vs. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Season series: 2-1 Oklahoma City
The Thunder recently swept the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and had a few days of rest while the Lakers struggled to put away a feisty Denver Nuggets team in 7 games. This will be billed as a battle between the two highest scorers this season in Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant but the supporting casts will play a huge role in determining the series.

Point Guard: Russell Westbrook has been criticized for his outside shooting but his improvement in the 16-23 feet range has jumped up to 43% this season. He has attempted at least 5 of these shots per game this year and hitting from outside can open up driving lanes for the Thunder. Ramon Sessions has upgraded the point guard position from Derek Fisher but still has trouble guarding speedy point guards. Ty Lawson averaged 19 points per game in the previous series and Westbrook will be an even more difficult matchup for him.

Rappler says: Advantage Thunder

Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant will face a duo of James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha. Harden gets more minutes but Sefolosha’s defense will be used to keep Kobe from taking over the series.  Sefolosha has trouble hitting shots but is part of the best defensive lineup along with Perkins, Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka. Kobe is averaging 29.1 points per game in the last series up from his 22.8 points per game in last year’s playoffs.

Rappler says: Advantage Lakers

Small Forward: The only knock on Kevin Durant has been his inability to get the ball late in the game because of his strength; Metta World Peace is one of the strongest defenders in the league and could give Durant problems. If Durant can come off screens and stay out of the post he can tire World Peace.

Rappler says: Advantage Thunder

Power Forward: Pau Gasol came alive in the 7th game of the Denver series with 23 points and 17 rebounds, with Kobe being a constant scoring threat Gasol is usually a barometer of the Lakers success. He’ll have to deal with Serge Ibaka, the leading shot blocker of the league at 3.7 a game. While Ibaka provides rim protection he is quick off his feet and can fall for pump fakes.  

Rappler says: Advantage Lakers

Center: Andrew Bynum and Kendrick Perkins will matchup for the first time in the playoffs since the 2010 finals. Perkins is a strong post defender who gives the Thunder the option of playing Bynum straight up or sending the double team. Other than Perkins, the Thunder have few options at center to guard the young big man.  

Rappler says: Advantage Lakers

Bench: James Harden was recently named the 6th man of the year and will provide a late game pick and roll ball handler alongside Westbrook. Harden averaged 18.3 points per game in the sweep of Dallas and is tied with Russell Westbrook for assists per game highlighting his importance to the Thunder’s offense. Derek Fisher makes his return to Los Angeles providing veteran leadership and 3 point shooting while Nick Collison is the first big man off the bench. The Lakers bench consists of Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Jordan Hill. Blake had been struggling but in game 7 against the Nuggets he hit 5-6 three pointers and can hopefully turn it around for this upcoming series.

Rappler says: Advantage Thunder

Overall: The key for the Lakers in this series is their 3 point shooting. This postseason they have shot a combined 19% from three point territory. If they continue to do so they will not be able to prevent constant double teaming of Gasol and Bynum. For Oklahoma City, Kendrick Perkins needs to be healthy to prevent Bynum from feasting on the offensive glass.

Rappler says: Oklahoma City in 6

Rappler.com

Daniel Romero-Salas is a lifelong NBA fan with an inclination to statistical analysis of the game. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, and strives to bring a refreshing take on one of the most popular leagues in the world. Follow him on Twitter: @danromerosalas

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