Celtics

Kyrie sets tone, Morris provides punch off bench in Celtics win over Sixers

Kyrie sets tone, Morris provides punch off bench in Celtics win over Sixers

BOSTON – When the Boston Celtics acquired Marcus Morris via trade from Detroit, the thinking at the time was that he could provide some much-needed scoring punch off the bench.

Injuries have forced Celtics head coach Brad Stevens to at times insert him in the starting lineup.

But as we saw on Thursday, Morris’ value as a point-producer off the bench can’t be overlooked.

Because Morris’ scoring at the start of the fourth quarter would prove vital to Boston holding off a pesky Sixers team, 108-97.

The Celtics (19-4) add one more victory to the best record in the NBA and just as important, getting back on a winning track after losing by 10 points to Detroit on Monday.

Following the loss to the Pistons, players talked about the importance of learning from the Detroit loss and understanding that because of their record, teams are going to play some of their best basketball of the season when they see that Green and White on the floor.

With that mind, the Celtics played a much better, more complete game against the Sixers (12-9) who were coming off a 118-113 win over Washington less than 24 hours earlier.

Indeed, several Celtics stepped up on Thursday including Morris who finished with 17 points which was one-point shy of matching his season high with the Celtics.

With Morris setting the tone by scoring Boston’s first five points of the fourth, the Celtics settled on a familiar scorer down the stretch to carry them to victory – Kyrie Irving.

Irving finished with a game-high 36 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter.

Even with Joel Embiid back in Philly due to what the team refers to as “load management,” the Sixers didn’t waste any time jumping on the Celtics with a 9-2 run to start the game.

But the Celtics bounced back with a pair of 3’s that led to Sixers coach Brett Brown calling a timeout.

Boston gradually took over and ended the first quarter with a 28-22 lead, with the 1-2 punch of Al Horford and Kyrie Irving who had 10 and 11 points, respectively. Horford had a near double-double, scoring 21 points while grabbing eight rebounds along with dishing out five assists.

In the second quarter, Boston was able to maintain a similar lead to what they had to end the first.

But the Sixers went on a 7-2 run that cut Boston’s lead to 43-41, only for the Celtics to counter with a 3-point play by Irving that made it a 46-41 game with less two minutes play.

From there, Boston closed out the second quarter with an 8-3 spurt to lead 54-44 at the half.

Philadelphia chipped away at Boston’s lead, and eventually went ahead 67-65 behind a 23-9 run.

But as we had seen most of the night, the Celtics met Philly’s surge with one of their own. True to form, the Celtics finished the third quarter with an 11-4 run to lead 76-71 going into the fourth and remained in front for the rest of the game.

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Austin Ainge on confidence of Celtics heading into the season

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NBC Sports Boston Photo

Austin Ainge on confidence of Celtics heading into the season

Austin Ainge talks with A. Sherrod Blakely about the confidence the Celtics have heading into the 2018 season, and we discuss what team we think Jimmy Butler will end up on. 

(2:00) Does Jimmy Butler wanting out of Minnesota make him look bad? (6:00) What team does Jimmy Butler end up with?

(11:00) Breaking down ESPN top 100 NBA players list, did they rank the Celtics correctly? (15:00) Would you rather have Jimmy Butler or Gordon Hayward?

(17:00) A. Sherrod Blakely talks with Celtics Director of Player Personnel Austin Ainge.

(17:30) How does Austin think Kyrie irving and Gordon Hayward will fit back in on the Celtics?

(25:00) How important was getting Marcus Smart back with the Celtics? 

(28:00) What are the Celtics thoughts on the 2019 draft?

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What are some key intangibles to the Celtics having a great season?

What are some key intangibles to the Celtics having a great season?

BOSTON – Winning in the NBA is about more than just having better players or an awesome coach. There are factors that come into play, like scheduling, unexpected injuries by an opponent, or even a leaky roof.

All those factors fall under the category of intangibles, which for most of the top teams, aids them in their quest towards success.

The Celtics have a roster that on paper ranks among the NBA’s best. Still, for them to sustain the kind of success they're pursuing all season, they’ll need some other things to work out. 

So, what are some of those intangibles?

COACHING CONTINUITY

Former Celtics player, assistant coach and fan favorite Walter McCarty left the team last season to become head coach of his hometown’s college team, the University of Evansville. The rest of the coaching crew remains intact this season. Having that familiarity on the sidelines is a bigger deal than most people might think. Head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t have to worry about egos or how folks will mesh together among his staff. They’ve been around each other long enough to know how to work well, and effectively, with one another. Team harmony among coaching staff can only help foster a similar culture inside the locker room.

STABLE FRONT OFFICE

This too is one of the more overlooked aspects of the Celtics success, a franchise that on the basketball side of things has been run by Danny Ainge since 2003. His right-hand man, Mike Zarren, has done an exceptional job of maintaining the team’s salary cap flexibility and remains one of the more highly regarded NBA execs out there. The stability of those positions takes away some of the uncertainty that agents and players might have about the franchise and, more specifically, how they will be treated if they become Celtics.

NEW PRACTICE FACILITY

The team’s new facility in Brighton, The Auerbach Center, won’t win them a single game. But there’s something about having a building that’s yours and yours alone, which is different than what they had in Waltham, Mass, in where their practice court was inside the Boston Sports Club. It breeds a greater sense of pride and ownership, two character traits you can’t have enough of in the NBA.  

NO LEBRON JAMES

They will still see him twice a year, but that’s so much better than four times a year plus the playoffs. Of course, Boston will still have to show up and handle their business against the teams in the East, and the NBA for that matter. But to know that their journey towards competing for an NBA title won’t have to involve dealing with James – his Cleveland team have eliminated Boston in the postseason three of the past four years – is a good thing for Green Teamers.

FAN BASE

Win or lose, blowout win or beatdown loss, Celtics fans support this team in a way that has no end in sight. Crowds don’t take shots (on the court ones, at least). They don’t grab rebounds, either. But they can motivate and inspire players in ways that no amount of X’s and O’s can top. We have seen this team tap into that energy from time to time. And while it appears on paper they won’t need to as much this year, knowing that their fans have that to offer is reassuring to a team that so many fans – not just their own, either – expect to make a deep postseason journey that takes them back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2012.

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