Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics win despite 'bad day at work'

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics win despite 'bad day at work'

BOSTON – A poor practice by the Boston Celtics on Thursday seemed to carry over into Friday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, one in which the Celtics began the game with what looked like a lackluster effort.

For large chunks of the game they were slow getting to loose balls, out of position defensively and playing with little edge to their game.

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Despite their obvious struggles, the Celtics still managed to escape with a 116-110 victory over the Sixers behind a strong fourth quarter.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will be the first to acknowledge that it was not one of his team’s better performances this season.

“I think you’re going to have days like that throughout the course of the season,” Stevens said. “they can’t become something you that you have too often. But you know, everybody between October and April is going to have a bad day at work.”

There were several Celtics who fell into that category in the first half and for the early stages of the third quarter.

But Boston went on a 23-8 run in the third that spilled into the fourth to lead 89-84 after a Marcus Smart steal ignited a fast-break that ended with Isaiah Thomas cruising in for a lay-up.

It was a game that featured several gut-check moments in the fourth quarter by the Celtics whose home winning streak now stands at three in a row.

And considering how poorly players thought their practice on Thursday was, finding a way to compete let alone emerge with the win, was a success in its own right.

“You try to do your best the next day,” Stevens said. “I don’t put too much thought into that; I put more thought into, you should be always as focused as you can to bring value to your team, to prepare to win. And then when you get between those lines you have to be the harder playing team. Philly was the harder playing team for the first 28 minutes of the game. You’ve got to outplay somebody to beat somebody, to beat them.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

It wasn’t his highest-scoring game of the season, and he didn’t dominate the glass. But you would be hard-pressed to find a more significant performance by Horford in his short stint thus far as a Celtic. He finished with 19 points, 14 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out four assists along with two blocked shots.

Joel Embiid

His play in many ways justifies all those losses Philadelphia racked up the season prior to his arrival. It won’t be long before he’s the undisputed best big man in the Eastern Conference and on everyone’s short list as the best in the league. On Friday, he had 23 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and two blocked shots. And he did it in less than 26 minutes.

 

STUDS

Avery Bradley

The 6-foot-2 guard had his best game at home this season, scoring a team-high 26 points with nine rebounds. The nine rebounds gives him 245 rebounds total for the season, which is four more than his old career-high for rebounds in a season.

Isaiah Thomas

He didn’t have to carry Boston in the fourth quarter on Friday, but Thomas still had a solid game for the Celtics. He finished with 24 points, but you can bet he’ll be thinking about those season-high seven turnovers he committed.

T.J. McConnell

Lost in the dominance of Embiid and the clutch shooting of Horford, was the play of McConnell. The only true point guard that the Sixers have that is healthy, McConnell had nine points and a career-high 17 assists while turning the ball over just two times.

 

DUDS

Jae Crowder

After playing arguably his best game of the season with 21 points against Utah on Tuesday, Crowder was a non-factor for most of the 30 minutes he played against Philadelphia on Friday night. He finished without scoring a single point, missing all four of his shots from the field.

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.

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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>>>

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