Ainge: Garnett decision to have very little impact on draft

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Ainge: Garnett decision to have very little impact on draft

WALTHAM Danny Ainge knew that the Boston Celtics would have stiff competition this summer for Kevin Garnett's services, the stiffest challenger being Father Time.

In his multiple conversations with Garnett since the C's season ended, Ainge said he has been given a sense that Garnett's decision will be between a return to Boston for an 18th NBA season, or retirement.

Because Garnett is eligible for an extension, Ainge has been able to speak freely with Garnett and his representatives leading up to free agency, which begins July 1.

Ainge said there's no deadline for Garnett to let the C's know what his intentions are, but Ainge added, "I'll know that by July 1. I'll be in communication with him, and have some sort of read on that."

If Garnett's decision doesn't come by then, Ainge acknowledged that it could put some of their plans this offseason on hold.

"The sooner we can get Kevin done, the better it would be for us, the sooner we would have an idea on what direction we need to go," said Ainge, the C's president of basketball operations. He added, "We don't want to rush him. We don't want to pressure him."

With a pair of first-round picks, the Celtics could look to add at least one big man who could help, but no one believes that a player in this draft, let alone a late first-round pick, could make up for the potential void left if Garnett decides to retire.

The best center most likely to still be on the board when the C's are on the clock at No. 21 and No. 22, is Syracuse's Fab Melo. Boston might also consider St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson, the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year who recently had his first workout with the Celtics.

While Garnett's uncertain status will weigh on all the moves being considered, Ainge said it will have "very little" impact on what the Celtics do on draft night.

"With us only having four guys under contract, we need every position filled," Ainge said.

Mickael Pietrus is also a free agent, and he has made it absolutely clear that he wants to return to Boston.

He has been in town the past few weeks working out, and is anxious for Sunday -- the first day of free agency -- to arrive.

But when it does finally get here, he understands the focus for Boston will be on two letters - KG - and two numbers - 1-8, as in Banner 18.

The two have had discussions since the season, with their talks most recently centering around soccer.

"We have a bet," Pietrus said from the Celtics' practice facility on Wednesday. "He's rooting for Germany. I'm rooting for Spain. So hopefully I collect on my bet Sunday, and he signs his new contract."

C's edge out Sixers 107-106

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C's edge out Sixers 107-106

The Boston Celtics had another one of those nights when the defense took a lot longer to get on track than anyone with the Celtics could have felt comfortable about.

But they made just enough plays down the stretch to squeak out a 107-106 win.

Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 37 points to go with seven assists.

Philadelphia's Dario Saric, who finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, missed a 3-pointer that was defended tightly by Jonas Jerebko, that was rebounded by Marcus Smart.

With 8.6 seconds to play, Smart made both free throws to make it a two-possession game.

Philadelphia's Ersan Ilyasova hit a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds to play, which led to Boston's Brad Stevens immediately calling a time-out.

Coming out of the time-out, Boston's Jae Crowder in-bounded the ball to Al Horford who was fouled with 1.7 seconds to play.

Horford made both free throws to seal the victory. With a four-point lead, Ilyasova hit yet another 3-pointer as the final horn expired.

Down the stretch, the Celtics were led by Thomas who scored 12 of their last 17 points.

After leading 90-88, Thomas scored eight straight to put Boston ahead 98-91.

But the Sixers were getting a career night from Saric whose scoop shot with 34.6 seconds to play tied the game at 100.

Following a Celtics time-out, Thomas continued his dominant fourth quarter with a blow by lay-up past Saric.

The Sixers, down 102-100, called a time-out with 30 seconds.

Philadelphia had three shots at the rim following the time-out, but the ball eventually wound up in the hands of Avery Bradley who was fouled with 16.3 seconds to play.

Bradley,who had 20 points and nine rebounds, made the second of the two free throws that put Boston ahead by three points.

After being tied at 74 through three quarters, the Celtics opened the fourth with an 8-2 run highlighted by an Al Horford 3-pointer that made it an 82-76 game.

The Sixers called a time-out with 10:22 to play, well aware that the game’s fleeting momentum was squarely in Boston’s favor.

Philadelphia didn’t fall too far behind, but the Celtics’ control of the game seemed to continue to grow.

Boston got back into the game with timely stops, big blocks (Jaylen Brown) and a bunch of multiple effort plays which collectively were in stark contrast to how things went in the first half.

Philadelphia has been among the worst teams in the NBA this season, and were playing without their best player Joel Embiid who does not play in the second night of back-to-back games (Philadelphia played Orlando on Friday night).

So without their best interior force offensively, the Sixers relied heavily on their 3-point shooting.

It was a good strategy that the Celtics had no answer for in the first half which was one in which Boston spent primarily playing catch-up.

The Sixers, who came into the game ranked ninth in the NBA in 3-point shooting (36.1 percent) and seventh in 3-pointers made (10.6), were a blistering 9-for-18 on 3s in the first half.

Meanwhile, Boston’s offense never seemed to get into any kind of flow or rhythm which was a key to the Celtics going into the half trailing 53-45 after having fallen behind by as many as 11 points.

At the half: Sixers applying pressure early and often against the Celtics

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At the half: Sixers applying pressure early and often against the Celtics

The Celtics are getting more than they bargained for against the Philadelphia 76ers who are once again, record-wise, among the worst teams in the NBA.

They didn’t look like it in the first half which ended with the Celtics trailing the Sixers 53-45.

Boston came into the game having won its last four road games. And they did so by playing solid defense, something that has been noticeably absent in the first half.

Philadelphia came into the game as one of the NBA’s better 3-point shooting teams and has lived up to the lofty ranking.

In the first half Philadelphia made nine of its 18 three-point attempts while the Celtics are way, way, way at the other end of the 3-point shooting spectrum while missing eight of their 11 3s with Isaiah Thomas making a pair with the lone other made 3-pointer coming from Marcus Smart.

The defense struggled, the offense never had any kind of flow and not surprisingly, the Celtics found themselves playing from behind most of the first half.

Here are the first half stars from Saturday’s game.

STARS

Sergio Rodriguez: His playmaking was solid as usual, but it was Rodriguez getting it going with his jumper that really produced surprisingly strong results for the Sixers. He had 11 points, four assists and a steal in the first half.

Isaiah Thomas: Playing his game which is shooting and attacking the rim, Thomas was Boston’s lone double-digit scorer in the first half with 15 points which is tops among all players.

STUDS

Dario Saric: It was a solid first half as Saric contributed both on the boards and the scoreboard. He had 10 points in the first half along with five rebounds.

Gerald Henderson: Henderson had one of those high efficiency-type games with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.

DUDS

Celtics 3-point shooting: It was a miserable first half for a team that has been among the NBA’s leaders in 3-pointers made and taken this season. At the half, Boston has shot 2-for-10 on 3's.

Celtics defense: Boston has shown little to no signs of providing the kind of push-back they’ll need in order to leave Philly with a win. In addition to allowing Philadelphia to shoot 47.4 percent from the field, Boston also allowed the Sixers to knock down nine 3's.