Celtics

Celtics hit clutch shots down stretch, squeak out 110-106 win over Sixers

Celtics hit clutch shots down stretch, squeak out 110-106 win over Sixers

BOSTON – As Brad Stevens prepped for Friday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, it became quite obvious to him that this nine-win team was better – a lot better – than their record might have suggested.

That message eventually trickled down to his players who managed to squeak out a 110-106 win over the Sixers in a game that may have been one of the tougher ones they’ve had this season and managed to win.

After a pair of free throws by Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid with 28.7 seconds to play put the Sixers ahead 106-104, Boston took the lead on an Al Horford 3-pointer with 17.2 seconds to play – arguably the biggest shot he has hit in this his first season with the Boston Celtics.

MORE:

Philadelphia called a time-out, but we all knew who they were going to get the ball to.

Embiid, right?

Uh, not exactly.

The ball wound up in the hands of Ersan Ilyasova whose off-balance 3-point attempt was off the mark. The loose ball was rebounded by Amir Johnson who was immediately fouled by Embiid.

For Embiid, it would be his sixth personal foul so his night was complete.

Johnson, who had 13 points and five rebounds, made the second of the two free throws.

Philadelphia called a time-out with 6.3 seconds to play.

Coming out of the time-out, it was Ilyasova once again taking what would have been a go-ahead 3-pointer that barely grazed the rim before going out of bounds.

Brad Stevens called a quick time-out, with 2.7 seconds to play.

Boston in-bounded the ball to Isaiah Thomas who was fouled with 2.1 seconds to play which sent Thomas to the free throw line. 

Thomas, who finished with 24 points, made both free throws to seal the victory.

Horford, like most of the Celtics, didn’t seem to play with the kind of edge needed to beat a Sixers team that came in having won two straight and seeking a third consecutive win for the first time since 2014.

But in the fourth quarter, he came alive, scoring 14 of his 19 points to go with 12 rebounds and four assists.

But this Sixers team proved to be a pesky bunch, especially Embiid who at this point seems a lock to win this year’s rookie of the year award.

He would finish with 23 points and eight rebounds, showing off a strong around-the-basket game as well as the ability to knock down perimeter shots.

For the Celtics (22-14), a 23-8 run that began in the third quarter and carried over into the early portion of the fourth, put the Celtics ahead 89-84 following a lay-up by Isaiah Thomas following a Marcus Smart steal.

Philadelphia (9-25) responded with six straight to regain the lead 90-89 only for the Celtics to regain the lead and manage to fend off a Philadelphia team that just would not go away quietly.

A 3-pointer by Gerald Henderson tied the game at 104.

Boston had a chance to regain the lead on two separate possessions only to come up short.

And Embiid, a man among boys most of the night, put the Sixers ahead 106-104 with a pair of free throws with 28.7 seconds to play.

Al Horford, who had been relatively ineffective scoring the ball most of the night, scored back-to-back baskets for five points at that point equaled his scoring output through the first three quarters.

For large chunks of the game, the Sixers seemed to be in control on the court as well as in the stands.

“Trust the Pro-cess!” chants rang out loudly throughout the night by Sixers fans in attendance, a reference to the team’s efforts the past few years to rack up as many losses – and lottery pick talent – with the goal being that someday that talent would materialize into an elite, title-contending club.

Philadelphia is nowhere close to being that good, but there’s no mistaking the progress they have made this season even if their record (9-25) doesn’t necessarily reflect that growth.

Bucks fans' chant suggests they're pretty excited to face Celtics

Bucks fans' chant suggests they're pretty excited to face Celtics

As the Milwaukee Bucks put the finishing touches on a first-round sweep, their fans were already looking ahead.

The Bucks officially set up a second-round NBA playoff series with the Boston Celtics by beating the Pistons in Detroit on Monday night. And before that game even finished, fans at a Game 4 watch party in Milwaukee had the C's on their minds.

This is a perfect revenge matchup for the Bucks after Boston ousted them in the first round last season. Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted as much Monday night after his team's series-clinching win.

But here's a quick warning for Bucks fans: Be careful what you wish for. The Celtics are riding high off a first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers, and the last time another fanbase expressed its desire to play a Boston team was New York Yankees fans ahead of the 2018 American League Division Series. And we all know how that ended.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Celtics to face Bucks in second round of the NBA playoffs

Celtics to face Bucks in second round of the NBA playoffs

To nobody's surprise, the Boston Celtics are going to play the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

The Bucks, the East's No. 1 seed, had the best record in the NBA last season (60-22) and faced little resistance in their first-round matchup. They easily swept the Detroit Pistons in four games. The Pistons' star player, Blake Griffin, was far from healthy, and that played a role in the Bucks' series win.

This is the second year in a row that the Celtics will play the Bucks in the playoffs. Last year, the No. 2 seeded Celtics defeated the Bucks in a series that spanned seven games. The home team won every game in that series.

The Bucks will be a tough opponent for the Celtics. Potential league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is a matchup nightmare, and he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game during the regular season. And around him, the Bucks have solid depth.

In their regular season series, the Celtics posted only a 1-2 record against the Bucks, winning their first meeting in November but coming up just short in their other two games. Antetokounmpo averaged 31 points per game against the Celtics, so slowing him down will be key to finding success in the series.

The Celtics will open on the road in this series, as the first two games will be in Milwaukee. The Celtics will have to ensure that they get off to a solid start and continue to fare well on the road, something they struggled to do last postseason (1-7 record in eight road games, 0-3 in Milwaukee).

BLAKELY: Celtics vs. Bucks playoff history>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.