For the Sixers the time to toughen up is now. It’s not just that they lost game three that’s so disappointing, but it’s the way they lost it. They didn’t just lose, Boston beat them down. They were outplayed and outhustled for the bulk of the game; somewhat surprising from a scrappy Sixer team that has maximized their talent all season. No the 7-6 aren’t the NBA’s toughest team, but they can’t allow themselves to be bullied, especially in front of the Philadelphia faithful.
Boston is going to talk, and Boston is going to bang. That is what they do. It is no secret that they are an emotional team, spearheaded by superstar hotheads Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who yap almost as much as they produce on court, and this attitude sets the tone for the rest of the squad. The Sixers have to not only accept this, but to overcome it. Sure for a team full of young kids it can be quite intimidating to see future first-balloter Kevin Garnett slapping himself in the head with that crazed look in his eye after a couple successful shots, but such is life in the NBA’s second season. If this Sixer squad is to take next step from low playoff seed to true contender, they must develop some of this tough skin on their own, and there is no better way to do so than not bowing down to Boston.
Philly looked overmatched in game three. They allowed too many open layups and uncontested shots, and all too often didn’t have an answer to the tenacity of KG and Pierce. The Sixers’ timidness surfaced offensively as well, as they settled for long jump shot after long jump shot. This team is at its best when players are slashing, attacking the basket, drawing fouls, and kicking out to open shooters; almost all of which was absent in the second half of game three. Instead the Sixers allowed themselves to be pushed out of the paint and consistently forced contested shots. If Philadelphia wants a shot of winning the series they must man up and alter this approach immediately. It starts with Iguadala, the team’s lone all-star and de-facto leader. He needs to push the pace early and attack the rim. Regardless of his struggles from the line, the strong play will radiate a message throughout the rest of the team.
The fact that the 76ers have won five playoff games this postseason serves as a surprise to many, but having seen what they are capable of, along with the state of the rest of the field, they should be far from satisfied. However, in order to advance the team needs to toughen up, starting tonight and given Boston a taste of their own medicine.