Celtics

Celtics-Sixers Game 7 review: C's find a way

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Celtics-Sixers Game 7 review: C's find a way

BOSTON The Boston Celtics closed out their second round series with the Sixers by handing them an 85-75 Game 7 loss.

And they did it without something that the winner in the previous six games all did - win the third quarter.

On Saturday, Boston had a 55-52 lead going into the fourth quarter, but they were out-scored 19-14, in the third.

"No one played great," said Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. "But we found a way to get the win."

Limiting turnovers was one of the keys to Boston's previous three wins, victories that came about in part because they only averaged 10.6 turnovers. But on Saturday, Boston turned the ball over 15 times which led to 21 points for the Sixers.

Despite the turnovers, Boston's defense once again came to the rescue.

Philadelphia is one of the better teams in finding ways to generate offense in transition after getting defensive stops or forcing turnovers.

On Sunday, Boston limited them to just four fast-break points while tallying 14 fast-break points of their own.

Those were just a couple of factors in Boston's Game 7 wins that catapults them to the Eastern Conference finals where they'll face a well-rested Miami Heat squad. Here are some other keys outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out as the C's snapped a two-game Game 7 losing streak with Sunday's win.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics are an older bunch, so maybe there's some truth to the thought that it takes them a while to get going. That certainly has been the case in most of the six games thus far against Philadelphia. In each of their three wins, Boston has trailed at the end of the first quarter only to bounce back and win the second quarter. No team likes to get down early, but it seems to be just what the Celtics have needed in order to be successful.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't trail after the first quarter (the score was tied at 20), but they did deliver a strong second quarter showing that put them ahead, 41-33, at the half. Boston closed out the half by scoring seven of its last eight points.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Elton Brand: This was about as lopsided a matchup as there was for the Celtics through the first three games. Since then, Brand has made this duel far more competitive. For the Celtics to win, Garnett has to do more than just score and rebound. He has to establish his presence around the basket, something he failed to do during the C's Game 6 loss in which he had 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. "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 (going into Game Seven)."

WHAT WE SAW: Both struggled with their shot in the first half, but the edge early on had to go to Garnett who was able to get to the free throw line and was doing a better job on the boards. Garnett finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds while Brand tallied 15 points and six rebounds before fouling out.

PLAYER TO WATCH: This is the biggest - and potentially last - game of the season for the Celtics, the kind of scenario that tends to bring out the best in Rajon Rondo. When you throw in the fact that his Jrue Holiday (20 points, six assists) outplayed him in Game 6, a Rondo-esque performance in the triple-double neighborhood would not come as a surprise to anyone. Improved ball movement is one of the keys that all of the C's - Rondo included - have pointed to as being critical to their success in Game Seven tonight. "The ball stuck in Game Six," Rondo said. "Everyone tried to make the home run plays. It's not a bad thing everyone wants to do well for each other. The way we got to this situation, is moving the ball, sharing the ball. We have to go back to the basics and continue to try and get better."

WHAT WE SAW: Foul trouble limited Rondo to some degree in the first half, but he went into the half very much on track for the all-too-predictable triple-double kind of night Rondo seems to have in these kind of games. At the half, he was literally halfway to a triple-double with five points, five assists and five rebounds. Rondo finished with his ninth triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Among Rondo's clutch plays down the stretch, was a 3-pointer that put the Celtics ahead by 10 points with 2:09 to play. "The 3-point shot, obviously, was big," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "But more, his attack and command."

STAT TO TRACK: Being the aggressor has been the one ingredient for success throughout this series, and nowhere is this more noticeable than at the free throw line. For the Celtics, getting to the free throw line - a lot - will be an absolute must for them to win. In their three victories in this series, the Celtics are averaging 26.7 free throw attempts. In the three losses, that number plummets to 17 per game. The numbers are pretty comparable for the Sixers. In their three wins, they're averaging 27 free throw attempts compared to 19.3 in their three defeats.
WHAT WE SAW: Free throw shooting was not a major factor in the first half, with the Celtics and Sixers having 12 and 11 attempts, respectively. Even more impressive was that Sixers, a horrible free throw shooting team throughout this series, was 10-for-11 while the Celtics were just as impressive in successfully nailing 11 of their 12 free throw attempts. For the game, Boston was 20-for-22 from the line while the Sixers were a not-so-stellar 14 of 20.

Larkin provides fourth-quarter spark, Celtics beat Sixers, 102-92

Larkin provides fourth-quarter spark, Celtics beat Sixers, 102-92

PHILADELPHIA – Despite playing its second straight game without a key rotation player, the Boston Celtics did just enough to get their first win of the season, 102-92, over Philadelphia.

Boston (1-2) was led by Kyrie Irving’s game-high 21 points, but it was Shane Larkin's floor game down the stretch that truly catapulted Boston to its first win of the season.

Larkin, who was seeing action in large part because Marcus Smart was out with a left ankle injury, provided a huge spark in the fourth before finishing with 10 points and four assists.

He drained a 3-pointer that tied the game at 75-all, which was part of an 18-9 Celtics run.

The Sixers (0-2) were led by J.J. Redick and Jerryd Bayless who had 19 and 18 points, respectively. Joel Embiid got off to a slow start, but finished with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Boston played with a lead for most of the first half, but Philadelphia took over with a 7-0 run to end the second quarter and had the Celtics playing catch-up for all of the third and some of the fourth quarter.

Boston was once again short-handed, with Marcus Smart out with a left ankle injury. He replaced Gordon Hayward, whose left ankle injury in the first quarter of Boston’s loss to Cleveland on Tuesday, is expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

But with players out, that opens up opportunities for others to step up.

Larkin, who walked away from a contract overseas that would have paid about $5 million more than he’s making with the Celtics, was one of those players.

Aron Baynes, who got the start with Smart out, had 10 points and eight rebounds. Boston also got another strong game off the bench from Terry Rozier who had 14 points and seven rebounds

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Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

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Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

PHILADELPHIA – For the third time in as many games, the Boston Celtics will field a different lineup.

It will have a domino effect on Boston’s usual starters, but no one more than Al Horford who will slide over to power forward with Aron Baynes inserted into the starting lineup where he’ll be charged with trying to defend Sixers 7-footer Joel Embiid.

Meanwhile, Horford will be assigned to defend Robert Covington who is one of Philadelphia’s better perimeter scorers.

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“I feel like one of my strengths is being able to play multiple positions,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “It presents a different challenge for me, which is making sure I do a good job of covering him out on the perimeter, staying between him and the basket.”

In Philadelphia’s 120-115 season-opening loss to Washington, Covington led all Sixers with 29 points which included him going 7-for-11 from 3-point range in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

While Covington will be Horford’s first defensive assignment, he knows he will also be called upon at times to defend Embiid who ranks among the best centers in the NBA despite having played just 32 games over the course of three NBA seasons.

In the loss to the Wizards, Embiid had a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Horford’s defense will be critical for Boston (0-2) to get its first win of the season, but the Celtics will also need him to take advantage of scoring opportunities as well.

“We have some guys down, but that creates opportunities for other guys to step up and contribute,” Horford said. “It’s going to all of us, the veterans, the young players, all of us to get that first win.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens agreed.

“I think that’s how we have to look at it,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to make a few tweaks on how we do things, obviously. Hey, it’s gonna be something that we’re going to have to do really, really well on the fly.”

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