Celtics

Celtics allow nightmarish late-game rally in 105-99 loss to 76ers

Celtics allow nightmarish late-game rally in 105-99 loss to 76ers

There were a number of stretches against Philadelphia that had to have felt like a bad dream for the Boston Celtics. 

And in the game’s closing moments, the Celtics found themselves squarely in what would be a nightmarish ending as the Sixers managed to squeak out a 105-99 win. Boston had several opportunities in the closing seconds to make it a one-possession game, but one 3-pointer after another rattled off the back, front and side of the rim as time expired. 

With the loss, Boston (44-26) had its three-game winning streak snapped along with its winning streak over Philadelphia which stood at 10 in a row. 

After leading by as many as 13 points, the Celtics found themselves clinging to a lead that would eventually escape their grasp which put them in catch-up mode through a good chunk of the fourth. But with 4:55 to play, Jae Crowder made a pair of free throws to tie the game at 91. Following Crowder’s free throws, Marcus Smart drew a charge against Robert Covington. 

The Celtics couldn’t take advantage of a good offense-good defense sequence, and soon found themselves back playing from behind following a 3-pointer by Robert Covington.

A lay-up by Amir Johnson made it a one-point game only for Philadelphia’s Dario Saric converting a lay-up in traffic. A lay-up by Smart was followed by a T.J. McConnell jumper that put the Celtics down by three with about two minutes to play. 

Saric scored on a drive to the basket that put the Sixers ahead 100-95 with less than a minute to play that would ultimately prove to be too much for the Celtics to overcome. Saric, who finished with 23 points and five rebounds for Philadelphia (26-43), was indeed the difference-maker for the Sixers down the stretch.

But for most of the game, it was Al Horford who had the hot hand. The 6-foot-10 big man had 27 points – the most he has had as a Celtic – couldn’t duplicate the dominance he displayed through the first three quarters, down the stretch. He also had eight rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots.

And as the Celtics offense struggled to make plays down the stretch, it served as a painful reminder of just how lost this team is in the closing moments of games without Isaiah Thomas. Not only is Thomas the team’s top scorer, but he also leads the NBA in fourth quarter scoring this season. 

While there were a number of Celtics who picked up some of the slack in Thomas’ absence, no one could deliver in the fourth the way Thomas has for most of this season. 

As for the Sixers, Saric was just one of several players whose play was instrumental in Philly getting the win. In addition to his big game, Covington had 16 points and eight rebounds whose play added to a nightmarish game for the Celtics who failed to gain ground on East-leading Cleveland with the loss.

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics trail by double digits. The Celtics rally to make it relatively close by halftime. Boston continues to gain ground in the third, pull it out in the fourth.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

That has been the Celtics’ mantra this season, with the latest chapter in their comeback narrative being a 110-99 win at Atlanta.

“We need to put an emphasis on playing with space and getting the ball to the other side of the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It just stuck too much early on. We were staring at some post-ups that if we got it to the other side, maybe you could take advantage of.”

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Boston (15-2) fell behind by as many as 16 points against the Hawks (3-13), the second straight game the Celtics have rallied from a double-digit deficit.

In Boston’s 92-88 win over Golden State on Thursday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 17 before rallying for their most impressive win of the season.

That said, it still shouldn’t take away from what happened on Saturday against an Atlanta team that despite their record, has shown signs of playing better in their recent games.

Players are aware of the penchant they’ve shown thus far for falling behind only to mount a furious comeback for the win.

“We don’t try to (go down early),” said Kyrie Irving following Saturday’s win which extended their winning streak to 15 straight which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. “Some teams, they go on runs and whether that be us giving up some easy ones or giving up some turnovers or doing things we can correct. When we do correct them, it turns into a different game.”

And that is what makes this stretch of play so impressive.

The Celtics have not played a full game; instead they have had stretches of good play that have often masked their mistakes early in the game.

That’s why head coach Brad Stevens, obviously pleased with the team’s success, knows as well as anyone that his team has to become more consistent in their play if they are to get the most out of these wins and continue to build off of them and achieve their ultimate goal – getting back to the NBA Finals.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Stevens said. “But the biggest thing is, we can’t keep digging these holes.”

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Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

When it comes to the top backcourts in the NBA, you seldom hear about Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown.

That may soon be changing if they have more games like the one they delivered on Saturday as Boston put together a solid second half to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks, 110-99.

Irving had a game-high 30 points which was his second game with at least 30 points scored – both against Atlanta.

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And Brown, who had a strong 22-point performance in Boston’s win over Golden State on Thursday, was even better against the Hawks in tallying a career-high 27 points.

We all know about Irving who has established himself as one of the NBA’s top guards.

But is Brown on the way?

One thing Brown won’t have to develop going forward is, confidence.

He has long maintained that he believes he’ll be among the best in the league. It’s just a matter of him performing at a high level at both ends of the floor, consistently.

“I’ve always had that confidence, I can play with the best in the world,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the win over Atlanta which extended Boston’s winning streak to 15 in a row. “It’s just a matter of coming out, doing it. My teammates found me tonight. We had a good team win tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

 

STARS

Jaylen Brown

Back in his home state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown delivered another monster game for the Celtics by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving

Irving had his most efficient game this season for the Celtics, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists.

Dennis Schroder

Atlanta’s best scorer delivering a strong 23-point, 9-assist performance for the Hawks.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

He only had 14 points, but they all came in the third quarter and they included a few crowd-quieting dunks.

John Collins

He came into the league with the reputation of being a high motor player, and he has not disappointed. His hustle and energy led to him tallying 18 points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Morris

When the offense struggled mightily in the first half, it was Morris’ scoring that kept them within striking distance. He finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Kent Bazemore

He was Atlanta’s number two scoring option most of the night, and finished with 19 points.

 

DUDS

Boston’s first quarter defense

The Celtics can’t keep digging themselves these early holes, expecting they will turn it on and find a way to climb out of them. The Hawks led 35-20, fueled in large part by shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in addition to out-rebounding Boston 8-6.

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