Game 7 Philadelphia 76ers @ Boston Celtics Odds and Predictions – 2012 NBA Playoff Picks: For six games, the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics and eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers have been grinding it out in the Eastern Conference semifinals. It has been a back-and-forth series filled with wild momentum swings, and at times, the play has been downright ugly. Now, the two storied franchises find themselves in a Game 7, bringing back memories of a heated rivalry that has faded a bit in recent years. This time around, it is the veteran Celtics trying to win one more title in the “Big 3” era against a young 76ers bunch trying to prove they belong. The deciding game will be played Saturday night in Boston, and the home team enters the matchup as a five-point favorite.

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This series really has seen it all. The teams exchanged one-point victories to kick things off, but a blowout win for Boston in Game 3 and a hot start in Game 4 seemed to have the 76ers reeling. However, an 18-point Celtics’ lead disappeared, and Philadelphia again evened the series at 2-2. Despite the disastrous collapse, Boston came out in Game 5 and delivered another runaway win, only to watch the scrappy 76ers gut out a win in Game 6 to force Saturday’s pivotal contest. It has been like a prize fight, with both sides responding to the other’s best punch. With everything on the line in Game 7, the only question is who will answer the bell.

There is something to be said about having prior experience in this type of situation, and from that standpoint, the Celtics have a huge advantage. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are as playoff tested as any group still alive in the postseason, and they have delivered big performances on the biggest stages in the sport. The “Big 3” also knows that this is probably their last chance to win another championship together, and the last thing they want to do is let the opportunity slip away, especially against the No. 8 seed. Yes, it can be argued that the76ers can take a nothing to lose mentality into the game, but that is easier said than done for a young team when a spot in the conference finals is on the line.

Boston and Philadelphia own two of the top three scoring defenses in the NBA, so the slow pace and offensive struggles that have highlighted portions of this series aren’t surprising. That being said, the Celtics have shown at times that they can shred the Philadelphia defense. Boston point guard Rajon Rondo is averaging nearly 13 assists per game in the playoffs, and the Celtics are a top-five team in terms of overall field goal percentage. When they are executing in the half court, Boston’s offense has been the model of efficiency, and the 76ers haven’t had an answer. For whatever reason, the Celtics have not been able to string together two strong offensive games in a row. If lack of focus is the root of the issue, Boston should have no problem turning it on and closing things out in Game 7. If the 76ers scrappy play really is getting the Celtics out of their comfort zone, Philadelphia could spring the upset. Based on Boston’s 16-point wins in Game 3 and Game 5, the former seems the more likely scenario.

For the 76ers, energy and effort is the X-factor. The Celtics have the edge in experience, they have the better offensive players, and they have the more polished half-court defense. Philadelphia, on the other hand, has one advantage – youth. The 76ers have an arsenal of speedy, athletic players. They don’t shoot the ball particularly well, but they attack relentlessly and compensate with hustle plays. Philadelphia might not be able to outplay Boston, but they have to outhustle the Celtics and get to every 50-50 ball.

In the end, it’s hard to imagine the eighth-seeded 76ers going into Boston and knocking off a Celtics’ bunch just a few years removed from a championship. Effort and hustle can overcome so much, and at some point, talent and experience win out. Boston’s veterans might be a little worn out from such a long series, but the pressure-packed atmosphere of a Game 7 should be more than enough motivation. The Celtics’ team that overwhelmed the 76ers twice already will be the group that shows up Saturday night.

Prediction: Boston Celtics (-5) Cover the Spread

Current Odds: Favorite - Boston -5.5 Total - OVER/UNDER 170.5

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