Celtics

Despite unconventional rebuild, Celtics see bright future for 76ers

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Despite unconventional rebuild, Celtics see bright future for 76ers

BOSTON -- For years, Philly fans have been asked to “Trust the Process” as the team went about building itself in a rather non-traditional manner.

They stunk, and teams that stink get high draft picks.

And so they continued to stink and continued to pile up the most highly regarded players with the goal that someday, all that young talent would come of age which would transform the organization from a league laughingstock to a playoff contender.

There’s still a lot of time left in this season, but all indications are that the Sixers’ time has arrived.

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Philadelphia (12-8) hasn’t had this kind of success this early in years, the kind of success that they are looking to build on against the Boston Celtics (18-4) who boast the best record in the NBA.

And making the Sixers’ rise even more surprising is the unorthodox manner in which they accumulated talent, almost strictly through lots of losses which they then turned into high draft picks that are starting to blossom into superstars before our eyes.

Joel Embiid, who does not play in back-to-back games which is why he’s out tonight, has emerged as one of the NBA’s top big men. He's averaging a double-double of 22.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.

And Ben Simmons, who missed all of last season due to injury, has been the front-runner for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.He is averaging 18.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists.

Philadelphia also has rookie of the year runner-up Dario Saric back for his second NBA season, in addition to Markelle Fultz (shoulder) who was taken with the number one overall pick in last June’s NBA draft and is currently out with a shoulder injury.

Boston’s ascension came about in a different manner, but there’s no arguing with the results that we’re starting to see from the Sixers who are four games above-.500 despite having the toughest schedule thus far in the NBA.

“We’re playing NBA royalty,” quipped Sixers head coach Brett Brown, referring to Philadelphia having already played Cleveland, Houston, Golden State and tonight the Boston Celtics.

“Philly’s got a really good team,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “They’ve been really well coached for a long time, and have good young talent.”

Here’s what Boston’s Kyrie Irving had to say about Philadelphia’s rebuild.

“I don’t know if it’s the conventional way, the way things have been done in NBA history but it’s working for them,” Irving said. “They’ve had some high-caliber talent come in that they drafted well and had guys that may not have played their first season due to injuries, stuff like that, but when they’re on the floor they’re pretty effective. Just a great group of young guys trying to develop, and (find) a spot for themselves in this league.”

When asked about Philadelphia’s team and how they came about, Al Horford quipped, “I think it worked out pretty good. Those guys … it worked out really well.”

Horford added, “That’s not the way you want to do it but it worked out great. You have a guy like Joel Embiid, you have Ben Simmons. You just have a lot of great players over there and you bring in some veterans, J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson … all of a sudden, you’re a playoff team. The future is very bright for them.”

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J.J. Redick: TD Garden loudest place to play

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J.J. Redick: TD Garden loudest place to play

If you're wondering why the Celtics are 10-0 at home this postseason, the fact that TD Garden is capable of overwhelming opponents might have something to do with it. 

Appearing on The Bill Simmons Podcast, 76ers guard J.J. Redick said that the energy of Celtics fans made the Garden a very challenging environment during the C's second-round meeting with Philly. He added that later start times -- an underappreciated aspect of a home advantage -- made it even harder. 

"They're unruly. Every guy on our team afterwards was like, 'That's the loudest place that [we've] ever played,'" Redick said. "I was a little worried [about the] later games. They were like 8:30 [p.m.] starts. I was like, 'Oh man, this is three and a half hours of drinking, when these guys get off work and come to the game.' That worried me. They were going to be extra loud. 

“My parents were at Game 5 and I went and saw them after the game before we got on the plane, and my mom was like, 'That’s the loudest arena I’ve ever been in,'" Redick recalled. "She’s been in some pretty incredible arenas, including Cameron Indoor Stadium for some pretty big-time Duke games, so for her to say that, it’s the truth. Their fans are nuts.”

Another fun Celtics-related anecdote? Redick, who spoke surprisingly highly of Marcus Smart, said his only particularly bad interaction with a Celtics player was with the ever-polished Jaylen Brown, whom he said called him a bitch and promptly apologized when the teams played on Jan. 11.

"When were in London, Jaylen was guarding me for that game and at one point in the second half -- I'm going to cuss on your show; I'm sorry -- but he called me a bitch and I looked at him and was like, ‘I don’t play that’ and he was like, ‘Oh,  OK, I’m sorry.’ That was my only [bad] interaction. We played them 11 times this year and that was my only negative interaction with anyone on their team.”

As series progresses, LeBron's getting tired of Celtics

As series progresses, LeBron's getting tired of Celtics

BOSTON -- One of the reasons the Celtics came into this series against Cleveland more confident than most teams was due to their depth at the wing position.
 
Boston has played a solid eight-man rotation in this series, and all but 6-foot-2 Terry Rozier has the size, length and athleticism to at least slow down LeBron James from time to time.
 
The plan from the very beginning was to wear down the perennial All-Star, something both sides acknowledged played a role in Boston's 96-83 Game 5 win.

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James had a strong double-double of 26 points on 11-for-22 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. But he couldn't muster up enough in the fourth quarter to take over and dominate play, scoring just two points in the fourth while missing three of his four shot attempts.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was asked whether James looked tired.
 
"He looked a little tired to me, yes," Lue said.


 
 Boston's Marcus Morris reiterated Lue's sentiments about James.

"Yeah. I seen it," said Morris when asked if he saw James tiring as the game wore on. "We threw a lot of different bodies at him. He has to do a lot for that team. Everybody knows these games are coming pretty quick; games are coming fast."

Morris added, "At the end of the day . . . I'm tired. Everybody else is tired. You still gotta play. I would think he would get a little tired."
 
James, playing in his 15th NBA season, played all 82 regular-season games and led the NBA in minutes played (36.9) per game. Among teams still in the postseason, James is averaging a league-high 40.6 minutes per game in the playoffs.
 
Throw in the fact that he nearly always plays until mid-June -- he's been to the NBA Finals each of the last seven seasons -- and it stands to reason that at some point, fatigue would become a factor.
 
And the Celtics, to their credit, have not made it easy on him. We have seen James defend Boston's perimeter 1-2 punch of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, a pair of young, athletic wing players who have been aggressive going at James and his teammates.


 
One of the best conditioned athletes in the NBA, James acknowledged that there were moments in Game 5 when fatigue became an issue for him.
 
"I had my moments," he said. "But I think everybody at this point is tired or worn down or whatever the case may be."
 
That said, his stat line speaks to how James was still a dominant force for the Cavs.
 
"Still trying to make plays to help our team win," James said. "Put us in position to win. We had moments. We had an opportunity, but we didn't make enough plays."
 
The key for James is recovery time, something he and the rest of the players in this series haven't had much of lately.

DJ BEAN

 
After the three-day gap between Games 2 and 3, each of the remaining games in this series have been, and will be, played every other day -- something that probably benefits the younger Celtics more than James and the older Cavs.
 
But at this point in the season, while all acknowledge that having some level of fatigue is just a reality of where this series is now, no one's using it as an excuse. And certainly not James.
 
"I'm fine," he said. "I'm fine."
 

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