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Welcome to the Garden

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  March 24, 2008 05:56 PM

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Welcome to the Garden, where the Boston Celtics (55-14) will take on the Philadelphia 76ers (35-35) at 7:30 p.m.

While a couple weeks ago it looked like Philadelphia could be a potential first-round opponent for the Celtics, the Sixers have won 9 of their last 11 games and 17 of their last 24. Instead of trying to sneak into the playoffs, the Sixers may have their sites on a sixth or seventh seed.

Philly’s recent surge has to have vaulted coach Maurice Cheeks into Coach of the Year consideration. Just look at his roster. The players getting the most minutes for the Sixers are, in order, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Samuel Dalembert, Willie Green, Reggie Evans, Louis Williams, and Thaddeus Young. Not one Philadelphia player participated in any of the events during All-Star weekend.

Still, the Sixers are a hard-working bunch. Five players are averaging double-figures over the last 32 games, and Dalembert is averaging 9.9 points during that stretch. The team has averaged 100.5 points per game during that stretch.

Where the Sixers struggle is on the defensive end. They’ve held only one opponent below 40 percent shooting since February 11.

The Celtics, meanwhile, are coming off a 4-1 road trip through Milwaukee, Texas, and New Orleans. While the team is coming off a loss Friday, they can’t be too upset about finishing the toughest stretch of their season playing .800 ball.

The Celtics held a brief shootaround on the parquet floor before tonight’s game, meaning they did not hold one this morning in Waltham. Still recovering from jet lag, that isn’t surprising.

Tony Allen and P.J. Brown are currently warming up for the Celtics. Brown is working on his post moves, but he’s posting up on director of player development Mike Crotty. Crotty was a point guard at Williams College, a Division III school in the NESCAC conference. Crotty is instrumental in working with Celtics players on fundamentals, but he’s not impeding Brown all that much in the post.

The locker rooms are about to open. We’ll be back in a few with quotes from both teams.

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