Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Al Horford scores season-high but disappears in 4th

Stars, studs and duds: Al Horford scores season-high but disappears in 4th

Not having Isaiah Thomas inevitably meant a lot more Al Horford offensively. 

And the 6-foot-10 big man didn’t disappoint, tallying 27 points – the most he has scored as a Celtic – through three quarters of play. 

But in the pivotal fourth quarter, Horford was a non-factor offensively in Boston’s 105-99 loss at Philadelphia. 

It seemed that the Celtics gravitated away from doing the things that helped them pull ahead by as many as 13 points, chief among them was playing almost exclusively through Horford who also had eight rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots along with his 27 points. 

Celtics guard Avery Bradley acknowledged that they should have made getting Horford the ball a bigger priority in the fourth, especially how well he had played through the first three quarters of the game.

 “It was like we were playing 1-on-1 basketball,” Bradley told reporters after the loss. “We weren’t sharing the basketball. We had a lot of guys who stepped up; we just stopped playing the right way. They came back, they started hitting shots. … we dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t get back.”

And while Horford is quick to credit opponents win or lose, he was asked about what happened in the fourth when he was scoreless despite having already scored 27 points. 

“I don’t think it was so much them,” Horford told reporters. “We probably got away from running some of the offensive stuff we ran earlier in the game. We just did some different looks. That’s how we lost.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. 

STARS

Al Horford: He was Mr. Do-It-All for the Celtics, tallying a season-high 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting with eight rebounds and six assists. 

Dario Saric: Lots of big plays down the stretch were made by Saric who is looking more and more like this year’s rookie of the year award winner. He had a team-high 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting with six rebounds and four assists.

STUDS

Robert Covington: Lots of big shots to start the game, with a few more in the end. He finished with 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting with eight rebounds and a blocked shot. 

Terry Rozier: He pushed the pace early and often, and finished with one of his better games this season. He had a double-double of 14 points on 4-for-12 shooting along with 10 rebounds. 

Sixers Bench: It seemed whoever they turned to, became a major problem at some point for the Celtics. They combined to score 49 points, but even more significant washow their backup bigs Richaun Holmes (11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots) and Shawn Long (eight points, three rebounds) made huge contributions at both ends of the floor.

DUDS

Celtics’ 3-point shooting: There were plenty of good looks for Boston, but we’ve seen how bad those looks are if Isaiah Thomas isn’t on the floor. After making at least 10 3’s in 26 straight games, Boston has failed to do so each of the last two games which just so happens to be games in which Isaiah Thomas (knee) did not play. Coincidence? Of course not. With or without Thomas, shooting 20.7 percent (6-for-29) isn’t going to be good enough to beat many teams.

How to watch/stream Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics, Game 5

How to watch/stream Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics, Game 5

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch Game 5 of the opening round of the NBA playoffs, as the Celtics host the Bucks at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's: Game 5 will come down to 'who wants it more'

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

Celtics: Game 5 will come down to 'who wants it more'

Celtics: Game 5 will come down to 'who wants it more'

BOSTON -- We are at that point in this Boston-Milwaukee playoff series where X’s and O’s have little value. 

There’s very little either team can do at this point that would come as a complete shock to the other, and make sense at the same time. 

“It’s nothing new anymore,” said Jayson Tatum. “We’ve played them four games in a row. We know what we are going to do, they know what we are going to do.”

MORE ON THE SERIES

So what’s left?

“It’s just effort,” Tatum said. “Who wants it more.”

So far in this series, desire to win has been directly tied with the game’s location. 

Boston won an overtime nail-biter in Game 1 at the TD Garden and followed that up with another win in Game 2. The Bucks returned home and delivered a decisive Game 3 beatdown, then survived a late Celtics surge in Game 4 to hold on for a two-point win that included some late-game controversy

“The biggest thing that you learn as you go further into this is transition matters so much more; and rebounding matters so much more,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Making the right reads on offense matters so much more and those are the things that are somewhat within your control.”

And control is exactly what’s at stake tonight for both teams, knowing the loser will be in the first true must-win scenario when these two square off again in Milwaukee for Game 6. 

The significance of tonight is not lost on any of the Celtics players.

“Got to protect home court,” said Jaylen Brown. “Got to protect our house. They felt comfortable the last two games until those last few quarters, and that’s how we want to continue to play.”

Boston fell behind by 20 points (65-45) in the third quarter of Game 4, then steadily chipped away at the Bucks lead and eventually went ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play on a jumper by Tatum. 

But Milwaukee eventually came away with the victory following a tip-in by Giannis Antetokounmpo with 5.1 seconds to play. 

Boston had one last chance to tie the game and force overtime, but Marcus Morris’ fadeaway jumper was off the mark as the final horn sounded. 

The Celtics had practice on Monday and watched some video. But at this point, there’s very little they will do or see that will dramatically change their outlook and approach to tonight’s game other than the prospect of Marcus Smart (right thumb) suiting up tonight. That seemed a long shot until late Monday afternoon when the Celtics listed him as “questionable” for the game, the first time since his right thumb was surgically repaired last month that he hasn't been ruled out.

MORE ON MARCUS SMART

Regardless of who steps on the floor, the Celtics know at this point there are no secrets among these two teams.

“It becomes a game of inches now,” Brown said. “We played this team what, three or four times in the regular season, now it’s game five of the playoffs. We both know. Through the film, like we both know what each team wants to do and get out of it. Now it’s just who is going to come out on top.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE