Celtics

Philadelphia beat Celtics in a very un-Sixer-like way

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Philadelphia beat Celtics in a very un-Sixer-like way

BOSTON At this point in the season, NBA teams still with games to play may change their lineup, but their identity?

That's not going to happen.

Yet when you look through the carnage Philadelphia left behind in their 92-83 Game 4 win over Boston, it's clear that the Sixers beat the Celtics in a very un-Sixer-like way.

They pushed; they pulled; they played a brand of physical, aggressive basketball that bothered Boston - a lot.

Because of that, it only makes sense for the Celtics to expect more of the same in a pivotal Game 5 matchup on Monday.

Not only did Philadelphia's aggressive play disrupt the Celtics offense, but at the other end of the floor, Philadelphia maintained that same tough and rugged disposition and they were rewarded with a slew of trips to the free throw line.

For the game, the Sixers were 25-for-36 from the free throw line while the Celtics were 16-for-19.

"The free throw line tells the story to me," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Thirty-six free throw attempts to 19. That's tough to win in that way if you turn the ball over (17 times) against the 76ers. Everything we did was the prescription that you don't do, to beat them. Seventeen to five offensive rebounds, 17 turnovers, 36 free throws, you would have thought we were down the whole game if you looked at those numbers, yet we had the lead."

The player most affected by Philadelphia's tougher play, was the toughest cover for them in this series - Kevin Garnett.

He finished with just nine points, his first single-digit scoring effort in this series. Even more significant was he was just 3-for-12 shooting. And by connecting on just 25 percent of his shots, Garnett - who turned 36 today - tied his lowest shooting percentage in a playoff game.

Philadelphia made a point of making sure Garnett did not dominate them the way he has throughout this series. The move by Sixers coach Doug Collins to put rookie Lavoy Allen on Garnett for long stretches has paid off handsomely for them.

The Sixers defense got some unexpected help in limiting Garnett from the Celtics themselves.

C's coach Doc Rivers is quick to credit Philadelphia's defense for the job they did on Garnett, but he added, "we had a lot to do with it. We did more than settle; we just lost our composure. We stopped running our stuff. Whenever that happens, I always think that's on me. I think that there is something the coach can do to slow them down, to get them back in their sets, to get them back in their rhythm, and I couldn't do it. To me, I always think that's my fault."

Philadelphia's more physical style has this series knotted up at 2-2, which has provided a significant jolt of confidence to the Sixers.

"No matter what people say as far as it's not over until it's over, being down 3-1 is a total different mentality than being at 2-2," said Sixers forward Andre Iguodala. "It could swing either way, so it was pretty much a must-win for us. Our psyche is a little different, but we still have to stay humble. We're going to keep getting their best shot."

Especially considering the Celtics felt that Game 4 was indeed one in which they inexplicably gave away with a shoddy second-half performance.

While some of Boston's second half struggles were certainly self-inflicted, credit has to be given to the Sixers for ratcheting up their aggression, too.

"I guess those guys can be called the more aggressive team," said C's point guard Rajon Rondo. "But regardless, that shouldn't have affected how we played.

Rondo added, "we're a strong-minded team. We're a veteran team, and we know we kind of let (Game 4) slip away. They felt they let a couple slip away early. Regardless of how each team feels, you still have to go out there and play the game. So we'll be reedy come Game 5."

Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

That Celtics win streak was dope. Let’s map out an even longer one that probably won’t happen. 

Nobody’s actually expecting them to keep the pace they’ve established with their recently concluded run. Still, with 63 games remaining, there’s still time for the Celtics to have up to three win streaks of even longer than 16 games. So, because it’s the holidays and the holidays are all about positivity (fun move you’ve probably picked up from movies: You can say “the holidays are all about _____” and just put in whatever you want and it will work), let’s map out the next win streak. 

MORE CELTICS:

A big part of the Celtics’ 16-gamer (and get ready to say “duh”) is that they were better than a lot of the teams they beat. But they also beat one team that was without question better than them and beat a few teams that could certainly beat them on any given night. 

Here’s a rough breakdown of the 16 games: 

- Even if they didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated, nine games were against what could be classified as easy prey based on their rosters and how those teams were playing: The 76ers, the Knicks, the Kings, the Hawks twice, the Lakers, the Hornets, the Nets and the Mavericks. 

- Let’s say that the Heat (whom they played and beat during the streak before Miami snapped the streak Wednesday) and Magic weren’t perceived pushovers, but rather unremarkable opponents. 

- Four games were against what one could call worthy opponents for the Celtics: the Bucks, the Spurs (though they were missing Kawhi Leonard), the Thunder and the Raptors. 

- Nobody was ever pretending the Celtics were actually better than the Warriors. 

So that breaks the 16 games into one game against an unequivocally superior opponent, four against worthy opponents, two against unremarkable teams, and nine joke books. 

Of course, there are several variables that can be thrown into that, such as the fact that the C’s beat one of the aforementioned good teams (Toronto) without Kyrie Irving and nearly lost to two of those trash teams (Charlotte and Dallas). You can’t predict injuries just like you shouldn’t predict win streaks, but let’s take all the information we have and try to find the next one:

STARTING FRIDAY

Friday vs. Magic (trash; probable win)

Saturday at Pacers (unremarkable; potential loss)

A back-to-back after a holiday with the second game on the road against a team that’s been way better than expected? I don’t like the sound of it. 

Nov. 27 vs. Pistons (worthy opponent; potential loss)

Are they overrated? Maybe, but Pistons currently hold the second spot in the Eastern Conference. Whether it’s the Pacers or the Pistons, I think this short stretch prevents a speed bump. The streak might have to wait. 

STARTING NOV. 30

Nov. 30 against Sixers (upgraded to unremarkable based on recent play; still win)

Remember: The last streak started against the Sixers. Hopefully, Kyrie pays that fans’ way to Boston for a halftime reunion. 

Dec. 2 vs. Suns (trash; win)

Dec. 4 vs. Bucks (worthy opponent; win)

Celtics aren’t losing to those sons of guns twice at home. 

Dec. 6 vs. Dallas (trash; win)

Can you get revenge on a team for almost beating you? Yes. The Celtics will. 

Dec. 8 at Spurs (worthy opponent; win)

Until I see Kawhi on the court, this one is a win. 

Dec. 10 at Detroit (worthy opponent; win)

The Pistons play the Spurs, Bucks and Warriors the three previous games. They’ll be all tuckered out. 

Dec. 11 through Dec. 23 (mix of unremarkable and trash opponents; seven wins)

Dec. 25 vs. Wizards (worthy opponent; win)

Terry Rozier becomes a household name with a Christmas performance for the ages. 

Dec. 27 at Charlotte (trash; win) 

Dec. 28 vs. Houston (worthy opponent; win) 

Dec. 31 vs. Brooklyn (trash; loss)

The Celtics are 0-1 the days prior to holidays this season. The streak ends at 18. 

THE REST OF THE SEASON

We'll assess it then, but for now, let's say undefeated (including playoffs).
 

Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

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Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of us. They have a lot to be thankful for.
 
There’s the usual good health, family and friends. But they have a few more things to be thankful for, as well.
 
So as you take a brief time-out today from the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, here’s a look at five things the Celtics are thankful for this season.


 
KYRIE IRVING
 
The Celtics have had some solid players in recent years, but the addition of Kyrie Irving was a game-changer. He provides Boston with an unmistakable superstar who has a proven track record of success on all levels -- he's won an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal, and is also a four-time All-Star. Did I mention he’s just 25 years old?


 
AL HORFORD
 
His numbers will never adequately measure the impact Horford has had on the Celtics. The big plus with Horford was him simply agreeing to be a Celtic. For years this franchise has been built on the success of developing draft picks or trading for talented players. But rarely have they had the financial flexibility or, to be frank, the kind of appeal to free agents to go out and acquire a proven All-Star like Al Horford. His arrival has enhanced an already-established winning culture, one that has become a player on the free agency market ever since.


 
DANNY AINGE
 
Other than Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, it’s hard to imagine another front office executive having as good an offseason as Ainge. He rolled the dice to go down two spots in last June’s NBA draft, and wound up with arguably the most NBA-ready player (Jayson Tatum) among those selected in last June’s NBA draft. (Remember, the likely rookie-of-the-year Ben Simmons did not play last year after Philadelphia drafted him with the top overall pick in 2016.) The free-agent pickups of Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin have all had moments where they carried the team to victory. Even second-round picks like Semi Ojeleye and two-way players like Jabari Bird have contributed to wins this season. Fans may not like some of Ainge’s decisions in the moment but he deserves a lot of credit for the team we see today, one that has played at a level few envisioned they'd reach this quickly.


 
BRAD STEVENS
 
And to think, the Big Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) Boston was planning to build around this season has played less than five minutes together. Stevens has been pushing all the right buttons, putting guys in unexpected positions to succeed with a cast that’s long on talent and well, well short on experience. Boston’s first win of the season came at Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics played six different rookies. It’s not unusual for teams to use first-year players frequently, but for a team that was built to contend for a championship? That’s highly unusual. The biggest thing is despite the lack of experience on the floor, Stevens hasn’t allowed them to use that as a reason to fail. Instead, Stevens has had them lean heavily on film study and the wisdom of veterans, as well as empowered them to have a “next-man-up” mindset with one goal regardless of what they are tasked with doing: Get it done. No excuses.


 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
 
Boston has spent most of this season atop the NBA standings, fueled in large part by a 15-game winning streak -- the longest of the Brad Stevens era and the fifth-longest ever by a Celtics team. But within that winning streak, there have been some noticeable areas of concern (i.e., bench scoring) that have made games more challenging. And that's what makes these Celtics so scary to the rest of the league. If they’re beating teams consistently now, how much better will they be when the offense catches up or, at a minimum, gains some ground on what has been an impressive stretch of play defensively? That’s why as good as this first full month of the season has been, there's reason to believe they’ll only get better. The Celtiheircs have seen  share of adversity. They've played without their All-Stars. They have fought back from double-digit deficits to emerge victorious. This is a young squad, but battle-tested already. Because of all that, they have a certain level of confidence that regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, they feel they will find a pathway to success. And that, Celtics Nation, is something to be thankful for.

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