Celtics

Celtics-Sixers Game 6 review: What we saw . . .

771486.jpg

Celtics-Sixers Game 6 review: What we saw . . .

PHILADELPHIA The Boston Celtics are now in a winner-takes-all situation following their 82-75 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
In the game, the Sixers had stretches of solid play in all four quarters, but as has been the case in the previous five games, it was the third quarter that ultimately proved to be a game-changer.
Philadelphia won the third quarter, 27-20, and with it, control of the game that they refused to relinquish.
"Third quarter has been a decisive quarter in every game of this round," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.
So as the Celtics gear up for a decisive Game Seven on Saturday, they will surely look to put together a strong 48 minutes of basketball.
But short of that, the Celtics might want to make sure they're on top of their game to start the second half.
Because in a series in which both teams have shown stretches of dominance swirled in with defensive letdowns and offensive droughts, coming out on top in the third quarter has been the only indicator as to who will ultimately win the game and at this point, the series.
Here are some other keys highlighted prior to tonight's game, and how they played out as the Celtics once again failed to deliver the close-out win on the road.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:If Avery Bradley (shoulder) has to miss a second straight game, Ray Allen is expected to get the starting nod once again. One of the reasons the C's put Bradley in the starting lineup ahead of Allen, was because of the defensive presence Bradley brought to the floor.
"Hes an extraordinary defensive player," Allen said of Bradley. "Any time you have a player down you never take on that persons role; you just try to go out and do your job."
WHAT WE SAW: Allen was in the starting lineup - and will likely stay there with Bradley's return unlikely. The C's sharpshooter struggled at both ends of the floor and finished with nine points on 4-for-11 shooting. Making Allen's rough night even worst was that for the first time in this series, they didn't defend him nearly as tight as they did in the first five games.
"They allowed Ray to get loose and he just didn't make shots," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Elton Brand: Both players had breakout performances in Game Five, with Bass scoring a playoff-career high 27 points while Brand led the Sixers with 19. The scary part for Philadelphia has to be that many of the shots that Bass made, were shots that he has had throughout this series. If he's knocking those shots down now, it has the potential to open up more scoring opportunities for the rest of his teammates.
"We got a few good players on the team that theyve gotta focus on," Bass said. After the way he ripped the Sixers defense apart in Game 5, Philadelphia might want to add him to that list.
WHAT WE SAW: One of these two players is a former all-star. If you didn't know which one before, you do now as Brand dominated this matchup from beginning to end. He finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, compared to Bass who had 8 points on 2-for-12 shooting.
"Elton Brand, he was our Ace of Spades tonight," Said Sixers coach Doug Collins. "Just the heart of a lion. What he does for us is amazing."
PLAYER TO WATCH: Once again, it's Kevin Garnett. He's always going to draw the attention of defenses. But after alluding to the Sixers supporters as fair-weather fans, the chorus of boos for him are sure to be amped up even more so and Garnett is going to love it. He is a guy that's always searching for added incentive, added motivation to elevate his game. A room full of folks booing his every move? That'll do it.
WHAT WE SAW: The numbers don't tell the full story. Garnett finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds, but he didn't have nearly as big an impact on the game as he has used to having.
"We never really established Kevin Garnett," Rivers said. "Even though Kevin had points, it wasn't the points we needed, the type of points. So we have to do a better job there."

STAT TO TRACK: Jrue Holiday is more of a scoring point guard than his Celtics equivalent Rajon Rondo. But his ability to limit his turnovers has played a vital role in the game's outcome. When he has kept his mistakes to a minimum, the Sixers have had success. But when he has struggled with turnovers, the Celtics have emerged victorious. In the two Philadelphia wins, Holiday has averaged just one turnover committed. In the three losses, that figure more than doubles to 2.67 turnovers per game.WHAT WE SAW: Holiday had a couple turnovers, but his play was among the many keys to Philadelphia keeping their season alive with a Game 6 win. He had a team-high 20 points on 7-for-15 shooting to go with six assists and two steals.
"I was very, very proud of Jrue Holiday tonight," Collins said. "He stayed in attack mode. He knows he needs to score for us. He did a great job of that."

Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

BOSTON -- These are tough, heart-tugging times for the Boston Celtics, who are less than 24 hours removed from the gruesome left-ankle injury suffered by Gordon Hayward in the first quarter of their 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday.
 
Hayward is scheduled to have surgery today, and potentially could be out for the entire season.
 
As much as their hearts go out to Hayward and his family, the Celtics know they can’t spend too much time sulking. The nature of this business won’t allow them, evident by the fact the C's step back on the floor tonight to host the Milwaukee Bucks.
 
“You hurt for him,” said coach Brad Stevens. “He’s put in a lot of great work. I thought he had his most comfortable week as far as feeling like he was going to play really well. It’s a tough, tough deal but I guess that’s part of it, the risk of injury. I really feel for him.”
 
But in the same breath, Stevens is a realist.
 
He's been in the league long enough to know that grieving for a lost player won’t help that player in the short-term. Or the team, for that matter.

MORE ON GORDON HAYWARD

 
The best way the Celtics can help Hayward is to continue to compete in his absence.
 
We saw that in last night’s loss to the Cavaliers.
 
When Hayward was carted off the floor, the Celtics were ahead, 12-9. The lead disappeared and was eventually replaced by an 18-point deficit, only for Boston to chip away and eventually go ahead in the fourth quarter.
 
But down the stretch, too much LeBron James and Kevin Love would prove to be too much for the Celtics to overcome.
 
While the loss was disappointing, it gave the team some insight into how to fight on now that one of its main guys will be out for a significant amount of time.
 
We saw Jaylen Brown emerge from being a second-year pro on the rise into a matchup problem who dropped a career-high 25 points on the Cavs.
 
And Jayson Tatum reminded us all that he’s a teenager in age only, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. The last rookie to tally a double-double for the Celtics in his opening night debut was Larry Bird in 1979, who had an identical 14-point, 10-rebound line.


 
But Bird didn’t have to play most of that game with one of the then top-three Celtics out for all but the game’s first five minutes.
 
When it comes to adversity, NBA players don’t have the luxury to pick which ones to handle and which ones to pass on. They either step up to the challenge or be consumed by it.
 
Under Stevens, Door Number One is the only option under consideration.
 
And since Stevens has been in Boston, his players have risen to the challenge.
 
That doesn’t mean they'll win every game, but they've shown the ability to at least be competitive. And in defeat, they'll refuse to use injury as an excuse.
 
That means younger players like Brown and Tatum will assume a larger role at both ends of the floor if Boston is to make it through these tough times relatively unscathed.
 
Veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Smart will be leaned upon more heavily to be leaders, both on and off the floor.
 
And Stevens, considered by many to be one of the better coaches in the NBA, will once again be tasked with making on-the-fly adjustments with his lineup and rotations under less-than-ideal conditions.
 
Nobody hurts more than Stevens when it comes to Hayward’s injury. Remember, he's known him longer than anyone associated with the Celtics, having recruited Hayward to play for Butler. It was the platform that launched both of their NBA careers.
 
Which is why the way he approaches not having Hayward is the example for all his players to follow.
 
Shortly after the loss to the Cavs, Stevens was asked about moving on while handling the emotional dynamics of losing Hayward for an extended period of time.
 
“We’ll be ready to play [tonight],” Stevens said with a heightened level of seriousness in his voice that spoke to how important it was to him and his players that they came out and performed at their best on Tuesday against Cleveland.

And that's the blueprint required for them going forward if they hope to be successful in handling adversity as it comes their way.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

0:41 - Kyle Draper, Brain Scalabrine, Tommy Heinsohn, and Mike Gorman break down the Celtics loss to the Cavs and Gordon Hayward’s injury.

4:22 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions to the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward and how it impacted the game.

9:39 - Dr. Chris Chihlas joins BST to give his medical opinion on Gordon Hayward and if he thinks there is a chance Hayward could return this season. 

13:40 - Chris Mannix and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss what the feeling was like in the arena when Hayward went down but how there is actually a 'cautious optimism' surrounding the injury.