Celtics-Sixers preview: C's still trying to shake 'soft' label

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Celtics-Sixers preview: C's still trying to shake 'soft' label

PHILADELPHIA Even now the subject of the Boston Celtics being a "soft" team still comes up - and it's not from the media.

It's from the Celtics players who still feel the sting of their coaches' assessment following a loss to Brooklyn last month.

"We're a soft team right now; we have no toughness," C's coach Doc Rivers said following a 95-83 loss to Brooklyn on Nov. 28 that also involved Rajon Rondo being ejected.

Following Boston's 104-94 win over Minnesota on Wednesday, Kevin Garnett was asked about the team's rebounding performance which led him down the road of discussing toughness which then took a detour down the road of being labeled a "soft" team by Rivers.

"Obviously being called soft is not something that you want to be called," Garnett said. "It still lives in the back of our minds. Work in progress, man."

Since the Brooklyn loss, the Celtics have tried to go about proving their coach wrong with a brand of basketball that's reminiscent of the days not that long ago when the Celtics had a defense that teams feared.

Boston has held its last three opponents to 94 or less points scored. Prior to the Brooklyn loss, C's opponents cracked the 100-point plateau in five of the previous six games.

"We've got a long way to go, but we're getting better," Rivers said. "You can see it, for sure."

The Sixers have been one of the few teams in recent years to find success against Boston with wins in four of their last six regular season matchups.

Rivers and his players are all too aware of their recent struggles against the Sixers.

"I've always said consistency has always been our biggest question mark," Garnett said. "Philly always plays us tough, and we have a back-to-back (the two meet again Saturday in Boston). Let's see how consistent we can be with this."

Here are a few keys to tonight's game as the Celtics try to take another step towards shedding that "soft" label put on them by their head coach.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Kevin Garnett was so good against Minnesota because he got the ball so often on the block with plenty of time on the shot clock. Getting Garnett lots of early touches offensively usually works out well for the C's over the course of a game. Knowing this and actually doing it, that's another story.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jason Terry vs. Jason Richardson: Terry has been in a nice groove lately, scoring at least 13 points in each of the Celtics' last four games. The C's will need more of that, especially with Richardson struggling the way he has shooting the ball recently.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass had a stretch in the third quarter of Boston's win over Minnesota in which he was the best scorer on the floor. Finding a stretch like that against the Sixers will bode well both for him and the Celtics' chances of winning.

STAT TO TRACK: The third quarter is usually a big one for both teams. The Celtics average 24.9 points in the third which ranks seventh in the league, while the Sixers are giving up just 23 points in the third quarter which is the sixth-lowest average in the league.

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over the Royals:

QUOTES

“I hadn’t really thought about it. Trying to win games. It’s late in the year . . . I don’t really have time to sit back and pat myself on the back for anything. We’re trying to win as a team.” - Dustin Pedroia on the importance of the 11-for-11 stretch in his career.

“It’s fun. It’s why you go to work in December, January, February. It’s all the work you put in up to this point. It feels good to go out there and get the results you expect to get, especially against a team like [the Royals] who is hot as they are right now.” - David Price on pitching meaningful games with a playoff-like atmosphere.

“Yeah, yeah we [knew about the streak] . . .  It was an awesome roll and it was fun to see . . . Every time I went up to hit, I let Salvador Perez know.” - Xander Bogaerts on Dustin Pedroia’s 11-for-11 streak.

“I think we’ve been able to handle velocity very well. We’ve got good bat-speed in out lineup, and we’re able to handle that.” - John Farrell on the offense thriving against good pitching.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz played in his 1,000th game at Fenway Park, becoming the fifth player to do so.

* Ortiz also became the first player ever to play 2,000 games as the designated hitter.

* Mookie Betts scored his 100th run of the season off his 29th home run of the year, joining Fred Lynn, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams as the only players to reach 100 runs before turning 24.

* The Red Sox hit back-to-back home runs for the fourth time this season with Betts and Hanley Ramirez going yard in the fifth.

* With his 2-for-4 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. improved to 34-for-94 (.362) batting ninth.

 

STARS

1) Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia finished 4-for-5, extending his streak to 11 hits in 11 at-bats, finishing one shy of tying the MLB record.

2) David Price

Price logged his fourth straight quality start with his six-inning, two-run start. He also dropped his ERA below 4.00 for the first time since his Opening Day start with Boston.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez finished 2-for-3 with two home runs. Saturday marked only the second multi-home run game of his career.