Celtics

Celtics-Sixers Game 3 review: C's respond

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Celtics-Sixers Game 3 review: C's respond

PHILADELPHIA So much for that struggling Boston Celtics offense.

Unlike Games 1 and 2, this one would not come down to the wire.

Not even close.

Boston doubled up the Sixers in the second quarter (32-16), setting the stage for a dominate 107-91 victory.

The Celtics' ability to limit Philadelphia's dribble penetration forced them to play against a set Celtics defense. And that defense was able to rebound the ball and most important, keep the Sixers defense on its heels most of the night.

And it was the C's defense, more than anything else, that contributed to their highest scoring game in the playoffs.

"You need easy baskets in this series," said C's coach Doc Rivers.

Using its defense to generate offense was an important factor in Boston's Game 3 win. Here are some other keys identified earlier, and how those factors actually played out as the Celtics take a 2-1 series lead in their best-of-seven series with Philadelphia.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Brandon Bass came out smoking in Game 2 by making his first three shots, and cooled off considerably afterward. It'll be interesting to see if the C's try to get him going as they did in Game 2, or will they try to establish Kevin Garnett - their best player in this series - offensively in the post early.

WHAT WE SAW: Bass was involved offensively, but not nearly to the extent he was in Game 2 - and the Celtics were a better team for it. Bass finished with 10 points on 5-for-10 shooting which included five rebounds. It was the first game Bass has shot 50 percent from the field or better and scored in double figures, during the playoffs. "It's going to come," Bass said. "Tonight, do the other things. That's what everybody did, and that's what I'll continue to do and hopefully my (shooting) rhythm will come back soon."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Jrue Holiday: Rondo has been better in this series, but the gap isn't nearly as wide as you would expect. Holiday has shown the ability to break down the Celtics defense and get into the lane more than C's head coach Doc Rivers feels comfortable with, clearly. Rondo has to do a better job of keeping him out of the lane so that the bigs behind Rondo, won't have to rotate as much defensively and thus be out of position to rebound.

WHAT WE SAW: Now that's more like it. Holiday had a solid game (15 points, nine assists and six rebounds), but Rondo was without question the superior player. In addition to scoring 23 points, Rondo also had a very Rondo-like night with six rebounds and 14 assists with just one turnover.

PLAYER TO WATCH: With so many superstars in this game, Sixers rookie Lavoy Allen has been the X-factor guy in this series. His defense on Kevin Garnett in itself would be enough. But he's averaging 11 points in this series, held his own on the boards, and he's shown no hesitation in his game - which is what you tend to see with rookies in the playoffs for the first time. "I know my job is to go out, defend, rebound and maybe score a little," Allen told CSNNE.com. "I'm just trying to do what I can to help us win."

WHAT WE SAW: Lavoy Allen, Earth. Earth, meet Lavoy Allen. Allen didn't have a terrible game, but his impact wasn't anything close to what it was in Games 1 and 2. He finished with four points on 2-for-4 shooting.

STAT TO TRACK: Rebounding is one of the more basic statistics available, and it should speak clearly as to who will win tonight. In Game 1, Boston won the battle on the boards and thus, they won the game. In Game 2, the Sixers controlled the action around the glass, and they came away the victory.

WHAT WE SAW: Just like Games 1 and 2, the winner of the boards was the winner of the game. Boston out-rebounded the Sixers 44-37, an unusual large rebounding margin for a Celtic team that's been among among the worst rebounding teams all season. "We ran into a Celtics team that had a real purpose about them," said Sixers coach Doug Collins. "This was a team you could see coming in, did not want to be down 2-1 playing Game 4."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's need to play Smart in Dallas

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

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