Celtics

Celtics-76ers Takeaways: A woeful shooting night for C's key players

Celtics-76ers Takeaways: A woeful shooting night for C's key players

Play Harder. 

Bring more effort. 

The Boston Celtics’ focus coming into Thursday’s game against Philadelphia short and simple. 

But executing it, even with Philly’s Joel Embiid (finger surgery) out, was not going to be easy.

Even with a strong start to the game, the Celtics couldn’t put the Sixers away in the fourth as they suffered a 109-98 loss. 

The fact that it was Boston’s third loss in a row, a first for them this season, is a tough pill to swallow. 

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But what hurts Boston (25-11) even more is the fact that they have now lost all three games against the Sixers this season, giving Philly the head-to-head series for the first time since the 2013-2014 season, which could come into play if these two finish with an identical record. 

“It’s important for us,” Al Horford told NBA TV’s Kristen Ledlow when asked about the importance of winning the season series. “It’s good to get a quality win.”

AL HORFORD

No Joel Embiid, no problem. There were a number of players who stepped up for the Sixers in Embiid’s absence. But no one impacted the game more than ex-Celtic Al Horford. 

As was the case when he was in Boston, there are so many little things that Horford does consistently that add value to any team he plays for. 

We saw that on full display Thursday, more than usual in large part because of Embiid’s absence. 

There was nothing that Horford did that the Celtics hadn’t seen this season or for that matter, the previous three years when he played in Boston. 

Horford, who had 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots, stepped up when the Sixers needed leadership. 

And as he often did when he was a Celtic, Horford delivered while the Celtics (25-11) now find themselves trying to regroup after yet another tough loss. 

KEMBA WALKER

Walker delivered in a big way to start the game, scoring 13 points in the first quarter. But the Sixers adjusted defensively in limiting him to 13 points over the next three quarters before he finished with a team-high 26 points. 

Walker’s final numbers for the night were good, for sure. 

But the way the team’s other key players were struggling, this was a game in which good-playing Kemba was not good enough. 

They needed Walker to be great and he wasn’t. 

Most nights, good-playing Kemba is going to be enough to win but the Sixers are a different team (especially at home) and in many ways, cause more problems for Boston without Joel Embiid than when he’s available to play. 

MARCUS SMART

I guess Marcus Smart Day came a day later than planned. Because other than Kemba Walker, no other Celtic got into an offensive groove more than Smart. He would finish with a season-high 24 points which included five made 3-pointers. 

The second of those 3’s gave him 500 made 3’s for his career which put him in some pretty exclusive company - only five other Celtics have made as many 3’s in Boston. 

But historical relevance was the farthest thing from Smart’s mind on Thursday. 

Like the rest of his teammates, he was focused on doing whatever he could to help Boston get back on a winning track after losing their last two games coming into Thursday’s matchup with Philly. 

Now that the losing skid has been extended to three in a row, Boston’s ability to bounce back will be put to the ultimate test this season when they return to action on and kick off a three-game homestand with New Orleans on Saturday. 

ROUGH SHOOTING NIGHT FOR KEY PLAYERS

Jaylen Brown.

Jayson Tatum.

Gordon Hayward.

We have seen them all deliver at different times for Boston this season. 

But on Thursday, they were collectively as bad scoring the ball as we’ve seen all season. 

You certainly have to credit the Sixers defense which ranks among the better units, with or without Joel Embiid. 

But a big part of Boston’s shooting struggles had to do with them collectively missing open shots, or shots that they normally knock down. 

For the game, the Brown-Tatum-Hayward triumvirate shot a combined 10-for-36 from the field, or 27.8 percent. 

Regardless of the opponent, when three of the top four or five scorers collectively shoot so poorly it’s difficult to compete, let alone win a game. 

The good news for the Celtics is what we saw on Thursday has not been something we have seen with any kind of consistency in the past, so it’s easy to brush it off as just one of those bad shooting nights. 

The lesson isn’t in the loss, but how they respond to it this weekend against New Orleans.

Highlights: C's lose 3rd straight to Embiid-less SIxers

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Pelicans-Celtics, which tips off Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

NBA Rumors: Execs expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million Celtics contract

NBA Rumors: Execs expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million Celtics contract

Gordon Hayward was enjoying his best season as a Boston Celtic before the 2019-20 season came to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Through 45 games, the 30-year-old forward was averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 59.3 percent from the field. Hayward's performance was setting himself up for a solid contract if he were to opt out of his contract and hit free agency this summer.

That scenario doesn't appear likely, however.

According to Heavy.com, NBA executives expect Hayward to exercise his $34 million player option.

'It’s too much money to pass up,' one general manager told Heavy.com. 'He could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him, they have a lot of young guys to pay and the starting (salary) number on whatever the contract is will not be close to $34 million. He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021.'

That doesn't exactly come as a surprise. Hayward may get a nice contract if he were to hit the open market this year, but it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near that eye-popping $34 million figure.

It makes far more sense for Hayward to take his money and test the market in 2021 if he and the Celtics don't agree on an extension before then. The 2021 free agent class will be much deeper, and teams will have more cap space to give Hayward a sizable long-term deal. That is, if he can duplicate the kind of success he's enjoyed so far this season.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine break down 2008 Finals Game 6 vs. L.A

Celtics Talk Podcast: Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine break down 2008 Finals Game 6 vs. L.A

With the 2019-20 NBA season suspended, what better time to relive the Boston Celtics' 2008 Finals run vs. the Los Angeles Lakers?

As part of NBC Sports Boston's "Classic Celtics" series, Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine took a trip down memory lane and watched their Game 6 series-clincher while providing some commentary.

In the latest Celtics Talk Podcast, you can listen to Pierce and Scal go quarter by quarter to get Pierce’s recollection of what it was like to win a championship in front of the Boston crowd.

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Boston was 35-6 at home in the 2008 regular season and lost only one game at home in their playoff run. Pierce credits that success, and their dominant Game 6 performance, to the raucous fans at TD Garden.

We're at home, we've been a dominant home team ... you could just feel it. I don't know, it's just something about the Garden, man. You could just feel it. It was like, when the momentum was going, you know the type of runs we were capable of...

Just pulling up to the arena when you see everybody just all in the streets coming from the bars. And it was just like, when we were in the locker room before the game and you hear the chants of 'Beat L.A.," it's hard to hear in the locker room. Our crowd was that energetic and I just remember hearing that from the locker room. There's just something about the energy in that building, man. That's why we were so dominant at home throughout the playoffs.

After re-watching their dominant 131-92 win, Pierce reflected on what it felt like to finally walk off the court an NBA champion.

It was the best feeling in the world because you think about all the years from the time I started playing basketball, this is what it was all about. Making it to the NBA and winning a championship and doing it with the Boston Celtics ... 

I'm just ecstatic. I'm like man, these are my brothers for life. Everybody knows what we go through every day in practice. Everyday is not always smooth. We have arguments. But it's all for this moment and you can't -- those moments will never go away, man. They'll live with you forever.

NBC Sports Boston's Classic Celtics series will continue with a bunch of memorable games on the docket, including the C's 1986 showdown vs. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1896 playoffs. That one is set to air Sunday night at 7 p.m.

To hear more from Pierce and Scal about their 2008 championship run, check out this week's episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, available on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network and YouTube.