Celtics

Celtics-Sixers Game 2 review: Sixers growing up

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Celtics-Sixers Game 2 review: Sixers growing up

BOSTON The Boston Celtics had another solid showing in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough as Philadelphia evened up their best-of-seven series with the C's at 1-1 following an 82-81 win. The Celtics outscored the Sixers by seven points in the fourth, but the C's usually stingy defense gave up a very un-Celtic like 25 points.

Beating the Celtics in a game that came down to the wire not only helps Philadelphia in terms of the series, but provides a nice jolt of confidence as they head home for Games 3 and 4.

"I think we're growing; we have a young team," said Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday. "We like playing against Boston. We think we match up well against them and even though they had a smart play at the end of Game 1, ya know we still had a chance in that game so that's definitely a confidence booster."

Philadelphia's ability to withstand the Celtics' fourth quarter defensive crush was a major factor in the game's outcome. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Paul Pierce can't move about as well as he would like to, courtesy of a sprained MCL in his left knee. However, he is finding other ways to make an impact for the Celtics. In Game 1, he missed eight of his 11 shots but still grabbed six rebounds and had six assists in addition to blocking two shots.
WHAT WE SAW: Pierce was about as ineffective as we've seen him in a playoff game, scoring just seven points on 2-for-9 shooting from the field. "Paul clearly is not 100 percent," said C's coach Doc Rivers. Even though Pierce wasn't moving nearly as well as he's used to and struggled to control the ball when he did penetrate into the lane - he had a team-high five turnovers - he wasn't about to use his knee as an explanation for his poor performance. "The knee was fine," he said, adding that he wore a knee brace during the game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Elton Brand: Both of these are more than overdue for a breakout game for their respective teams. Bass has been more hesitant lately to shoot, often a sign of a player whose confidence isn't quite where it was earlier. As for Brand, he's a victim of the Celtics' small ball lineup cutting his minutes, and emergence of rookie Lavoy Allen (12 points on 5-for-7 shooting in Game 1) and the solid play of Spencer Hawes (15 points, eight rebounds) around the basket. "EB (Brand) was struggling a little bit, and Lavoy was playing great (in Game 1)," said Sixers coach Doug Collins. "I think the guys know that at this point in time, I have to go with the guys that are playing well." In Game 1, Brand had four ponts and one rebound in 15 minutes.

WHAT WE SAW: It looked as though Bass would dominate this matchup from the outset, as he knocked down his first three shots while Brand only made three shots (in five attempts) the entire game. However, things soon went south for Bass and the Celtics, as he went on to miss 10 of his next 12 shots and finished with 12 ponts on 5-for-15 shooting. As for Brand, he only had seven points, but he was among the Sixers defenders who helped limit Kevin Garnett to 15 points - almost half of what he had averaged in Boston's two previous games.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ray Allen did more for the Celtics in Game 1 than his 12 points might have indicated. His mere presence opened things up for Garnett around the basket, along with creating better driving lanes for Rajon Rondo (13 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds). The Celtics were a plus-17 with Allen on the floor, far and away the best plusminus ratio of the 19 players for both teams to see action.

WHAT WE SAW: Allen was once again coming up with some big shots, but he wasn't able to deliver the dagger-like basket that the C's have grown so used to him providing. He finished with a team-high 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting.

STAT TO TRACK: Despite out-rebounding Philadelphia 45-41 in Game 1, the Sixers still had a decisive edge (15-6) in second-chance points. The Sixers ranked 23rd in second-chance points during the regular season, and are 10th (among 16 teams) in the playoffs. For the C's, Game 1 was indicative of their inability all season to capitalize on multiple-shot opportunities. The Celtics were dead-last (out of 30 teams) with 9.9 second-chance points per game, during the regular season. They haven't been much better in the playoffs, averaging just 8.7 second-chance points per game which ranks 14th (out of 16 teams).

WHAT WE SAW: Philadelphia controlled the boards most of the night and finished with a 47-36 advantage. The rebounds achieved a couple of things. First, it kept the Celtics from getting out and attempting to score in transition, evident by the Celtics having just six fast-break points. And the offensive rebounds - Philly had 11 of them - didn't necessarily generate much offense. But just as important, it meant the C's had to play defense for a longer stretch of time and that, over time, had to wear down those seasoned bones.

Irving: Struggling Celtics must 'weather the storm'

Irving: Struggling Celtics must 'weather the storm'

BOSTON – While it’s too soon to hit the panic button on the Boston Celtics’ season, Sunday’s 103-95 loss to Orlando is disturbing on multiple fronts. 

For starters, the Magic (14-32) have been in the NBA basement most of the season, so for them to see the light towards victory, on the road nonetheless, against the Celtics is bothersome for the Green Team. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Magic

Boston came into Sunday’s game with an impressive 17-3 record against teams with a sub-.500 record.

Making matters even worst, it was Boston’s third straight loss – a first for the Celtics this season - with all three defeats coming at the TD Garden. 

Celtics big man Al Horford said the team needs a “Fight for our lives’” mentality heading into Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

While no one wants to lose game, having to overcome some hurdles along the journey isn’t always a bad thing.

“Gotta have some adversity,” said Kyrie Irving who led all scorers with 40 points - the second time he has reached the 40-point plateau this season (47 points, Nov. 20 at Dallas). “We need it as a team. There’s a lot more adversity down the road. You have to be able to weather the storm no matter what.”

Aside from Gordon Hayward’s dislocated ankle injury in the season-opener, dropping three straight is probably the biggest adversity the Celtics have had this season. 

And this latest setback came against an Orlando franchise that the Celtics have absolutely owned at home. 

Prior to Sunday’s loss, Boston had not lost to the Magic at home since Feb. 7, 2010 with 14 straight wins.

"We didn't underestimate them," said Boston's Jaylen Brown who had 17 points. "They've been playing a lot better than they've been playing all year."

Al Horford echoed similar sentiments.

“You can’t underestimate any team,” Horford said. “I don’t think we necessarily did, but we need to have that sense of urgency like we started the game and be able to hold that throughout the game. That’s important.”

So is making the most of transition scoring opportunities which was an area of play in which the Celtics struggled mightily all game. 

Boston wound up with six, fast-break points on just 3-for-9 shooting. 

“We had some transition opportunities that we didn’t covert,” acknowledged Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

Failing to capitalize on those easy scoring opportunities came back to hurt Boston and in hindsight, proved to be one of the key differences in the game’s outcome. 

“Whether you’re doing things at an optimum level as you would like, that’s part of the game of learning one another,” Irving said. “Being able to figure out how to respond from that. Us as a group, we’ve come together in the last four months, five months, it’s new. We need to hit something like this in order for us to grow. It’s part of the game; part of being on a team, part of being a professional. Any team, any environment, you have to have stuff like this where you have to figure it out.”

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Celtics' losing streak reaches a season-worst three games with loss to Magic

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Celtics' losing streak reaches a season-worst three games with loss to Magic

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics’ defense had its moments on Sunday. 

Ditto for the offense. 

But overall, the sense of urgency that we saw when they reeled off 16 straight wins and skyrocketed to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, was nowhere to be found on Sunday against the Orlando Magic. 

And because of that, the Celtics now find themselves riding a season-worst losing streak that has reached three games. 

While it may not seem like that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, Boston understands all too well how momentum works. 

It is a catapulting force that can elevate teams for a stretch of games, or set them back which is exactly what’s happening now with the Celtics (34-13).

“In my eyes, I feel like we’re fighting for our lives,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “That has to be our mindset gong into Tuesday’s game (against the Los Angeles Lakers).

Horford added, “We have to understand that teams are coming for us. I felt that we’ve handled it okay this season. We have to do a good job of making sure we’re bringing the fire and them not bringing it to us.”

Lately, that has proven to be easier said than done. 

At the end of the day, Boston’s success comes down to one thing and one thing only – improving their play. 

“You know, you’ve got to play well,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We haven’t played well consistently on both ends for a while now.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 103-95 loss to the Orlando Magic which snapped the Celtics’ 13-game home winning streak against Orlando. 

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving: The Celtics came up short, but that doesn’t diminish a strong bounce-back game for Kyrie Irving. Irving, who did not play in Boston’s loss to Philadelphia on Thursday, returned to the floor and dropped 40 points on 14-for-23 shooting. He also had seven rebounds and five assists with just one turnover.

 

STUDS

Elfrid Payton: By no means did he shut Kyrie Irving down, but his scoring off the dribble certainly provided a much-needed boost for Orlando. He had a team-high 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting along with six rebounds.

Evan Fournier: He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (8-for-19), but made some clutch baskets for the Magic in pulling off the upset win. 

Aaron Gordon: He tallied his 10th double-double of the season and second straight on Sunday, finishing with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

Marcus Morris: Getting the starting assignment, Morris gave the Celtics a nice lift with 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds.

Jaylen Brown: Early on, Brown and Kyrie Irving were the only sources of offense for the Celtics as they combined to score 23 of Boston’s first 25 points. For the game, Brown had 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with seven rebounds.

 

DUDS

Celtics third quarter: There were other less-than-stellar stretches of play for Boston, but this game was truly decided by Boston’s horrific play at both ends of the floor in the third quarter. That is when the Magic outscored Boston 32-12.

Celtics transition offense: Easily one of the keys to Boston’s inability to get over the hump once after spending most of the second half on the comeback trail. Boston had six, fast-break points while shooting a woeful 3-for-9 in those opportunities. The Magic had almost twice as many fast-break points (11) while doing so on fewer fast-break field goal attempts (8).

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