Celtics

Celtics beat Sixers for 14th in a row, 84-80

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Celtics beat Sixers for 14th in a row, 84-80

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - Doc Rivers reached out to his former assistant, Tom Thibodeau, after Thibodeau's Bulls blew out the Philadelphia 76ers by 45 points on Tuesday.

The tone? Thanks for nothing.

He knew the Boston Celtics would have to deal with a hungry Sixers squad the following night, and they did. Still, the Celtics managed to scrap their way to an 84-80 victory Wednesday and extend their winning streak to 14 games.

"I texted a very mean message to Thibs," Rivers laughed before Wednesday's game. "So you know the Sixers are going to be ready. You know that. That's just human nature. You don't want to be the next game, obviously. But we are, so we'll just have to deal with that."

The Celtics quickly found themselves in a fight.

The C's controlled the first quarter, outscoring the Sixers 23-17 and shooting 48 percent from the field. Ray Allen quickly recorded 11 points while Jrue Holiday scored 9 for Philly.

In the second quarter, however, the Celtics looked like they were the team on the tail end of a back-to-back. They shot just 7-for-22 as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett went scoreless. The Celtics were whistled for 10 personal fouls in the quarter as the Sixers outscored them 12-0 at the line. The 76ers led 44-38 at halftime.

"I know I was frustrated tonight," said Pierce. "Just in a game where you're trying to get a rhythm and the game is off balance and calls are being called each and every way, it's like it's hard to get in rhythm and it was definitely frustrating tonight. Sometimes that happens -- you let the refs get the best of you and you do that, and you know, obviously, it affected my play. But somehow, someway we tried a way to grind it out, come back to reality, and find a way to win."

The Celtics opened the third quarter on a 9-4 run, including Pierce's first baskets of the game, and took a 64-61 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.

The fourth quarter was a see-saw of offense. The Sixers came out strong to tie the game at 68-68 and then took a four-point lead, 74-70, behind former Celtic Tony Battie.

Rivers had to make an adjustment. He called on Shaquille O'Neal for a rare late-game appearance. With O'Neal on the court, the Celtics attacked the basket and scored 8 of their next 10 points at the line to take a 80-78 edge.

"He was huge for us when we needed him," Garnett said of Shaq. "Usually he's not in there during that course of the time of the game. But he was big for us. He got us into the bonus."

A critical turnover by Iguodala with 50 seconds left halted the Sixers momentum and put the ball back in the hands of the Celtics, who iced the game with free throws by Allen.

Rivers wasn't thrilled by his team's performance, but he was happy with the outcome.

"We were not very good tonight," he said. "But we won the game, and that's the only thing youll take from this game tonight, is that we won the game."

Allen led all players with 22 points, and Elton Brand recorded a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double for the 76ers.

The Celtics improved to 23-4 on the season while the Sixers fell to 11-18.
Follow Jessica Camerato on Twitter at http:www.twitter.comjcameratonba

To get to 15, C's need to keep up the D

To get to 15, C's need to keep up the D

BOSTON – If you were to deconstruct the building blocks of the Celtics' 14-game winning streak, you would find the foundation lies in what they’re able to accomplish defensively.
 
And to the Celtics’ credit, their defense has been challenged in a multitude of ways already.

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They have managed to beat teams with great one-on-one talent (Golden State), those that rely heavily on athleticism and length (Milwaukee) as well as those that put a premium on sharing the ball (Philadelphia), which will be among the ways Atlanta could potentially challenge the Celtics tonight.
 
While the Hawks (3-12) have had their struggles this season, it hasn’t necessarily been because of selfish play offensively.
 
Atlanta averages 327.9 passes per game, which ranks third in the NBA.
 
The problem hasn’t been getting players the ball; it’s what happens – or doesn’t happen – when they get it.
 
Despite being a top three passing team, the Hawks average 22.9 assists, 10th in the NBA. And they're connecting on 45.5 percent of their shots from the field, 14th in the league.
 
For Boston to continue its winning ways, it’ll again be because their defense will have taken away things the Hawks love to do.
 
When it comes to scoring, Atlanta has been one of the NBA’s best at generating offense off screens.
 
Despite having an offense that ranks 19th in scoring (104.2) this season, Atlanta has been among the league leaders when it comes to scoring off screens.
 
In fact, only two NBA teams (Golden State and Cleveland) have generated more points off screens this season than Atlanta (141).
 
That still shouldn’t be a major issue for the Celtics defense, which allows a league-low 94.1 points per game and has shown the ability to find success against any and every kind of offense.
 
Here are five below-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between two teams at opposite ends of the success spectrum this season.
 

KYRIE IN THE CLUTCH
It’s one thing to score a bunch of points, but it takes a special player to do it in the latter stages of play, especially against an elite team that knows you’re looking to get points any way possible. We saw Kyrie Irving shrug off a horrible shooting night (4-for-16) in the 92-88 win over Golden State that included him draining all seven of his fourth-quarter free throws. But Irving coming through when the game counts shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. According to NBA.com/stats, Irving is averaging a league-best 5.8 points in “clutch” situations (last five minutes of a game with the margin being five points or less), ahead of notable standouts Damian Lillard (5.0) of Portland who is second and ex-teammate LeBron James (4.6) who ranks behind Irving, Lillard and Miami’s Dion Waiters (4.9).
 

HIGHS, LOWS FOR HORFORD
Although he spent nine seasons in Atlanta, it has been anything but a sweet homecoming for Al Horford statistically speaking. In the four games he has played against his former team, Horford has averaged 8.8 points and 6.8 rebounds, which are his lowest career scoring and rebounding averages against any team. However, the 5.8 assists he averages against the Hawks represents his highest career average in that category against any team.
 

JAYLEN BROWN
His athleticism has always made Jaylen Brown a standout and the way he has shot the ball this season in clutch situations has stood out as well. But what hasn’t been talked much about is his defense against 3-point shooters. NBA.com/stats lists Brown with 67 contested 3’s this season. That's tops in the NBA. And his 4.2 contested 3’s per game rank sixth in the league.
 

DENNIS SCHRODER
When you see the numbers, it’s clear that much of what the Atlanta Hawks do these days is centered around Dennis Schroder. But upon deeper inspection, it’s apparent that Atlanta is literally driven by the play of the 6-foot-1 point guard. Known for his attacking style of basketball, it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’s one of the league’s best at getting to the rim. According to NBA.com/stats, Schroder leads the NBA with 19.1 drives per game. The closest Celtic in that category is Irving who averages 9.7 drives per game which ranks 38th in the league.
 

TAUREAN PRINCE
With Schroder looking to run out in transition as much as possible, Taurean Prince has been more than willing to help fill lanes and provide an option for Schroder to pass to on the break. That has led to lots of spot-up shot opportunities for Prince this season. He comes into tonight’s game averaging 5.4 spot-up possessions per game, which ranks third in the NBA behind Detroit’s Tobias Harris (6.3) and New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins (6.2).
 
 
 

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Hawks in Atlanta. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

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