Celtics score season-low 80 points in loss to Sixers

Celtics score season-low 80 points in loss to Sixers

BOSTON – Coaches and players talk all the time about the importance of playing with great energy and effort defensively. 

But what about on offense?

When it’s not there, you get games like the one we saw on Thursday night as Philadelphia held off a late surge by Boston to defeat the Celtics 89-80.

Now the knee-jerk reaction is to praise Philadelphia for playing a great game defensively. And to the Sixers' credit, they did a lot of good things defensively.

But many of Boston’s struggles offensively were of the self-inflicted wound variety. 

“I just didn’t think we played hard enough on offense,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens who prefaced his statement by praising the Sixers as being a good team defensively. “We played hard on defense. And it’s, I guess, a unique game when you’re playing hard on one end of the floor but not on the other.

Stevens added, “We were very sloppy (offensively), over-dribbled, dribbled didn’t take us anywhere, not moving the ball, not getting to spots.”

Marcus Smart, filling in for the injured Kyrie Irving, had similar thoughts on how the Celtics played against the Sixers (21-20). 

“We need to play harder on both ends,” Smart said. “We were leaving guys on islands and forcing everybody to fend for themselves. On the offensive end we got real stagnant, trying to find it. Instead of being basketball players we became robots.”

Robots void of any plan or script on how to compete effectively at both ends of the floor. 

Said Smart: “We just acted like we didn’t know what we were doing out there.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia. 


Joel Embiid: Not long after Thursday night’s announcement that he was being named a starter in next month’s All-star game, Embiid went out and played like one. He was as dominant as we’ve ever seen him against the Celtics, tallying a double-double of 26 points and 16 rebounds to go with six assists and two blocked shots. 


Jaylen Brown: It wasn’t until the fourth quarter did Brown and the Celtics, start to play with a sense of urgency. Brown had 12 points for the game, six of which came in the fourth quarter. 

Shane Larkin: There were more minutes than usual for Larkin to take, and for the most part he made the most of his opportunity. Larkin’s energy was one of the keys to Boston rallying back into the game in the second half, as he finished with eight points on 3-for-6 shooting with two steals in 23 minutes with only Marcus Morris (27 minutes) seeing more action off the Celtics’ bench.

Marcus Morris: On a night when the Celtics needed someone to step their game up offensively with Kyrie Irving out, Morris came closer than any other Celtic to doing that. He had 14 points on 4-for-9 shooting. But just as important was Morris driving to the basket and being rewarded with free throw attempts – the kind of thing that Irving does when on the floor. The scoring, getting to the line four times in addition to grabbing six rebounds, were all important factors in Boston getting within striking distance in the fourth quarter. 


Celtics offense: Using Kyrie Irving being out with a sore left shoulder is too convenient an excuse for the struggles Boston had offensively. Boston didn’t take care of the ball (19 turnovers), didn’t play with force at both ends of the floor were bigger factors. But the biggest factor of them all was Philadelphia’s defense which played at a consistently high level most of the night.


Brad Stevens' shortened rotation pays off for Celtics

Brad Stevens' shortened rotation pays off for Celtics

CLEVELAND – Sometimes less really is more.

It certainly was for the Celtics in their 96-83 Game 5 win over Cleveland, a game in which Boston only used seven players before having a couple end-of-the-bench guys in Abdel Nader and Guerschon Yabusele step on the floor for the final 2:36 of play when the game was all but secured.

“There’s a lot that goes into it and I’ll leave it at that,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens when asked about the seven-man rotation.

The most notable absence from the game was for Boston was Semi Ojeleye, who registered his first DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coaches Decision) of the playoffs. Ojeleye has been one of the team’s better defenders against LeBron James.

In the first four games, James shot 28.6 percent from the field when defended by Ojeleye, which was his lowest field-goal percentage against any Celtics player in this series. Only Marcus Morris (111 possessions through the first four games) and Jaylen Brown (62) defended James more than Ojeleye (47).

Ojeleye has learned in his time in Boston to be prepared for anything and everything.

“You never know when your numbers going to be called,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “That’s why you always have to stay ready, which is what I try to do.”

Boston shortening its rotation appeared to have caught the Cavs off-guard, which was in part why we did not see Kyle Korver enter the game in the first quarter.

“Well, initially he’s [Stevens] been putting Ojeleye in, so that’s been kind of [Kyle Korver’s] matchup when he comes into the game,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “He didn’t play him [Ojeleye], so it kind of threw us for a loop.”

By starting Aron Baynes instead of Morris, it allowed Morris to enter the game without being burdened by or having to worry about early foul trouble.

It worked.

Just like he would not commit to a change to his starting lineup the last couple of games, there’s no guarantee or expectation that he will stick with a seven-man rotation in Game 6, either.

“It has nothing to do with the guys that didn’t play,” Stevens said of the shortened lineup. “All those guys are ready to help when called upon and have great attitudes and have been great teammates.”



No Celtics earn All-NBA honors

No Celtics earn All-NBA honors

The Celtics placed no one on the All-NBA teams announced Thursday.

Though they have eliminated from the playoffs two second-team selections (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid) and are a win away from eliminating a first-team pick (LeBron James). And they could be facing another first-teamer (Kevin Durant) and a third-teamer (Stephen Curry) in the NBA Finals.

Kyrie Irving and Al Horford of the Celtics missed out on the third team but placed high among others receiving votes.

James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Durant of the Golden State Warriors make up the first team.

The full All-NBA teams: