Marcus Smart's defense helps Celtics close out 76ers in 116-108 win

Marcus Smart's defense helps Celtics close out 76ers in 116-108 win

BOSTON – With the first and second quarters between Boston and Philadelphia each ending in a tie, you figure the game would probably come down to who played better defense down the stretch. 

And we all know how Boston’s defense has been most of this season – not great. 

Well, they rose to the occasion when they needed to on Wednesday, limiting the Sixers to just two field goals (both in the final 51.8 seconds of play) over the final 7:01 to defeat the Sixers, 116-108.

Leading 103-101, Al Horford deflected a lob attempt by the Sixers that wound up in the hands of Marcus Smart who had 21 points, five rebounds and five assists. Smart, who also had a career-high eight steals, quickly passed the ball upcourt to Jae Crowder, who then gave it back to a trailing Smart whose 3-pointer put Boston ahead, 106-101.

Moments later, a hustling James Young prevented the Sixers from retrieving a Philly miss that sailed out of bounds. And that was followed by a Marcus Smart and T.J. McConnell on-the-floor scrap for a loose ball. You already know who came up with it. 

Crowder then drove in for a lay-up to put Boston ahead, 108-101, with 2:54 to play, which led to a Sixers time-out. Boston continued to lock down the Sixers whose three-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of the Celtics who with the win, extended their winning streak to four in a row and 11 wins in their last 12 games.

Despite records that are miles apart, no one should have been surprised at how close Wednesday’s game between Boston and Philadelphia was. The Celtics were home for the first time in more than a week, well aware that the first game back home after a long road trip is usually a tough game. The Sixers played Boston toe-to-toe most of the game, with contributions coming from many. 

Everett native Nerlens Noel, who had 16 points and six rebounds, had a put-back jam that put Philly ahead 97-96 with less than eight minutes to play. 

Boston’s Isaiah Thomas came back with a pair of free throws that put Boston back on top by a point, only for Dario Saric to put the Sixers back up by one point. And there was Thomas once again leading the Celtics' charge with a driving lay-up attempt in which he was fouled on the shot. Thomas, who finished with 33 points, made the first of two free throws to tie the game at 99.

It was his 40th straight game with at least 20 points scored which tied the franchise record set by John Havlicek.

Horford helps Celtics get back on track

Horford helps Celtics get back on track

Aggressive Al Horford was on the floor Friday night for the Boston Celtics, a good sign for a Celtics team that has been battered by injuries. 

As the oldest member of the team, the 31-year-old’s leadership has to become more example-driven as well as existing in the spoken word.

CELTICS TALK PODCAST  - Smart's importance to C's, dissecting the East

Horford was on point for most of Friday’s 92-83 win over Orlando, a game that was far more lopsided in Boston’s favor than the final score might indicate.

The 6-foot-10 forward/center had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. 

What was more telling was that Horford took a team-high 18 shots from the field, as clear a sign as you will find that Horford’s mindset on Friday was to attack Orlando’s defense early and often. 

And while it’s true that the Magic are one of the worst teams in the NBA, that doesn’t diminish the way Horford executed the plays called by head coach Brad Stevens as Horford played the role of primary scorer more often than usual, instead of being a major facilitator.

Having missed Boston’s previous two games, Horford was admittedly concerned if the lay-off might affect his conditioning. 

“Wind-wise I felt good,” Horford told reporters after Friday night’s win. “A little rusty on offense. But defensively I felt great. I felt our team came out with energy; just a good win.” 

A win that became a lot easier to get with Aggressive Al on the floor. 

 Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds in Boston’s 92-83 win over Orlando.



Terry Rozier: He continues to provide the Celtics with really solid guard play, with all-star guard Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) missing. Rozier had a game high-tying 17 points along with seven rebounds and five assists. 

Greg Monroe: The third quarter was when Monroe really began to take over the game. He finished with 17 points, 10 of which came in the third. 

Shelvin Mack: Not a lot to cheer about for Mack and the Magic who once again struggled in so many phases of the game. But Mack still managed to score 16 points. 



Al Horford: Having missed the two previous games, Horford was back in full force on Friday. He had 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting to go with nine rebounds

Boston rebounding: The Celtics control of the glass began from the outset and never really eased up. For the game, Boston grabbed 55 rebounds compared to just 40 by Orlando. 



Fourth-quarter Celtics: The only real blemish on an otherwise impressive performance by Boston, was the team’s overall play in the fourth quarter. Boston was outscored 31-17 and turned the ball over 10 times in the quarter. 


Celtics snap skid with dominant win over Magic, 92-83

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Celtics snap skid with dominant win over Magic, 92-83

The Orlando Magic are one of the few teams already eliminated from playoff contention. 

And on Friday, it didn’t take long to see why.

CELTICS TALK PODCAST - Smart's importance, dissecting the Eastern Conference

The Boston Celtics didn’t waste any time taking control of the game and never letting up as they cruised to a 92-83 win.

Terry Rozier and Greg Monroe led the Celtics with 17 points each and Shelvin Mack had 16 points and seven rebounds for Orlando.  

With the win, the Celtics (47-22) snapped a two-game losing skid and improved their record since returning from the All-Star break to 7-3. 

Getting back on a winning track was just part of Boston’s motivation heading into Friday night’s game. 

With several key players out with injuries, the Celtics’ depth was once again on display from the opening tip to the final horn. 

In the first half, reserve guard Shane Larkin led the team in scoring with 10 points. 

And in the third quarter, backup center Greg Monroe was too much for the Magic to handle around the basket.

In the third, Monroe scored 10 of his 17 points off Boston’s bench. 

This was a game that the Celtics showed few signs of the kind of let-up we have seen them display against bad teams from time to time. 

But Orlando opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run that cut Boston’s lead down to 77-61 with 9:18 to play. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had seen enough and called a time-out. 

Orlando was able to chip away a little more at Boston’s lead which peaked at 24 points but was down to single digits in the fourth which provided a glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe, the Magic could get back in the game.

But when it mattered, Boston made the plays in the game’s closing moments to secure the victory. 

For the Celtics, the goal on Friday night was two-fold: find a way to win and come away healthy. 

Boston found success on both fronts, a refreshing change the Celtics hope to do more of going forward. 

Marcus Smart underwent surgery on his right thumb earlier in the day, which is expected to keep him sidelined for 6-8 weeks which would put his return to the floor at the earliest, sometime near the end of the first round of the playoffs or early into the second. 

Daniel Theis underwent season-ending surgery recently for a meniscus tear in his left knee.

And Boston played without Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness), but he might back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against New Orleans.

Al Horford returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to an illness, and he didn’t disappoint in finishing with a near double-double of 15 point and nine rebounds.