Celtics

Celtics establish control early, roll to 113-96 victory over Sixers

Celtics establish control early, roll to 113-96 victory over Sixers

BOSTON – Brad Stevens decided to sit most of his starters for Monday night’s game against Philadelphia, creating a sense of uncertainty as to how his relatively youthful squad of backups would handle themselves.

Quite nicely, thank you.

Boston’s backups had no problem establishing control over the Sixers in the game’s early minutes, and never relenting in delivering a 113-96 drubbing over the Sixers.

The Celtics (3-0) will look to close out their preseason slate of games undefeated when they travel to face Charlotte on Wednesday.

For Boston, the win itself doesn’t mean a lot in the grand scheme of things.

The Celtics are one of the better teams in the NBA while the Sixers are improving, they are a team that’s working their way towards being a more competitive team.

But on Monday, they were far from competitive.

They were crushed, in every sense of the word by a Celtics team that put on an impressive display of dominance that you should expect when they face teams like Philadelphia that they should be able to dispose of with little trouble.

Leading the way for Boston early on was their starting backcourt of Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, who completely overwhelmed their Philadelphia counterparts, Nik Stauskas and former Celtic Jerryd Bayless.

Boston led 59-39 at the half, with Rozier and Smart combining for 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting while Philly’s Bayless-Stauskas tandem had 1 point between them and were a combined 0-for-9 from the field shooting. Smart had 12 points while Rozier had a double-double of 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. 

The second half was more of the same, with seemingly everybody to step on the floor for the Celtics contributing either scoring the ball or solid play defensively.

Boston’s dominance also put on display the team’s depth at seemingly every position.

The one downside to Monday was the left knee injury suffered by Aron Baynes in the first half. He played just eight minutes in the first half and finished with two points and three rebounds.

Boston opened the game with a 17-5 run capped off by a 3-pointer from Marcus Smart – a phrase I’m finding myself writing a lot more than I expected, frankly.

Prior to the game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens decided to rest the team’s Big Three – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford – along with Marcus Morris.

That meant the players who would see most of the action for the Celtics, were players who would be spending most of this season coming off the bench.

Boston opened the game with Smart and Rozier in the backcourt, with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Baynes in the frontcourt.

Despite most of those players being on the second unit, it didn’t stop them from delivering a first-rate performance that the Sixers were never able to compete against. 

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Marcus Morris impressed with New England's 'winning culture,' but allegiance is with Eagles

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Marcus Morris impressed with New England's 'winning culture,' but allegiance is with Eagles

BOSTON – Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris isn’t all that different than most football fans in New England as far as being excited about the games today that will decide who moves on to the Super Bowl. 

But Morris’ allegiance lies squarely with the Philadelphia Eagles who will host the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game which will be played after the New England Patriots beat the crap out of  play the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

“Before I got here, I didn’t really know how big sports was in this town,” Morris , who is from Philadelphia, told NBC Sports Boston. “Being here for a couple months, just walking around … it’s a winning culture around here.”

Morris added, “damn near every year they in the Super Bowl or right there. That’s big for the city. It means a lot for everybody.”

And while the last decade or so has not been nearly as great for his hometown, Morris sees progress on several fronts. 

“The Sixers are started to win some games and be more competitive,” Morris said. “Hopefully the Eagles and get it done today, sneak into the Super Bowl and if they get there, you never know what can happen.”

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Celtics look to get back on track at home vs Magic

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Celtics look to get back on track at home vs Magic

BOSTON – Last season, the Boston Celtics were able to advance to the Eastern Conference finals in part because they had home court advantage in every playoff series before ultimately bowing out to a LeBron James-led Cleveland team.

The foundation for having home court advantage in the playoffs, lies in establishing an edge at home during the regular season.

Which is why Boston’s current two-game skid is indeed something for the Celtics to worry about.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens makes a point of keeping is team focused in the moment, never looking too far down the road or over their shoulder.

Well at the moment, his team needs to re-establish itself at home not only to improve upon their East-leading record, but also continue to stack up wins so that when the postseason arrives they will once again have home court advantage.

“It’s disappointing anytime to drop a game,” Stevens said. “But certainly, drop two in a row at home adds to that.”

While it’s certainly not ideal, Boston’s 18-7 record at home this season still ranks among the top teams in the East.

Still, there’s definitely room to grow on several fronts for Boston.

Winning at home?

That’s one of them. 

“At the end of the day, the reality is we’re not a 34-12 team by many metrics other than we figured out a way to win 34 out of 46 games,” Stevens said. “We have to be a lot better if we want to continue to move forward with this.”

Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into today’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic.

 

SLOW STARTS

Despite the record, the Celtics have not played very good basketball lately. And the bad games start with – you guess it – the way they open games. Boston has not won the first quarter since their Jan. 3 win over Cleveland. In fact, the Celtics have been outscored in nine of their last 16 quarters of play. 

 

BEATING THE BAD ONES

Part of being an elite team involves doing more than just knocking off the best teams. It also requires handling the not-so-great clubs, something the Celtics have done a good job with this season. They come into today’s game against Orlando with an impressive 17-3 record against teams below-.500 teams this season.

 

LIVE (AND DIE) BY THE THREE-POINTER

We know the three-point shot is a key component to the Boston Celtics offensively, evident by them ranking sixth in the NBA this season with 31.5 taken per game. But relying too heavily on the 3-point shot has transformed Boston from an elite team, to one that’s just barely above-.500. 

Consider this: When the Celtics take more than 40 percent of their shots from 3-point range, they are just 8-6 this season. In their last two games – both losses - the Celtics took 45.1 percent of their shots from 3-point range.

 

IN THE CLUTCH

You never plan on games being decided in the final minute or so of play, but the Celtics like their chances if the does come to that. This season, they have won 20 “clutch” games (those within five points in the final five minutes of play) this season which is tops in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic are at the near-opposite end of that spectrum, ranking 26th in the NBA with seven wins this season falling under the “clutch” category.

 

NO AFFLALO TODAY

Aron Afflalo will not be with the Magic today as he serves the second of a two-game suspension for fighting Minnesota forward Nemanja Bjelica on a play which included Afflalo punching Bjelica in the head on Tuesday.

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