Blakely's Celtics-Sixers Game 6 preview

767186.jpg

Blakely's Celtics-Sixers Game 6 preview

PHILADELPHIA You hear NBA coaches and players talk all the time about playing four quarters of good basketball in order to win.

But in this Boston-Philadelphia playoff series, success has been defined by one specific 12-minute stretch of play -- the third quarter.

More reliable than Miss Cleo or a Ouija board, the third quarter has been the ultimate truth-teller when it comes to figuring out who will win.

In the first five games, the team to score more points in the third quarter has won every time.

For Sixers coach Doug Collins, that was among the reasons why he was so disappointed in how his team seemingly came unglued in the third quarter which ended with the Celtics on a 22-9 run that set their 101-85 Game 5 victory into motion.

"I thought we were playing very well," Collins said. "We had a six point lead, a clear path, foul, missed two free throws and had five straight turnovers. That really was the deciding point in the game."

Which team comes out and asserts their control to start the second half, as has been the case in every game thus far, will go far in determining the winner of Game 6. That will be among the many factors to contribute to tonight's outcome. Here are some other keys to tonight's game as the Celtics try to close out the series against a Sixers team that will be desperate in their quest to force a Game 7 back in Boston on Saturday.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- If Avery Bradley (shoulder) has to miss a second straight game, Ray Allen is expected to get the starting nod once again. One of the reasons the C's put Bradley in the starting lineup ahead of Allen, was because of the defensive presence Bradley brought to the floor. "Hes an extraordinary defensive player," Allen said of Bradley. "Any time you have a player down you never take on that persons role; you just try to go out and do your job."

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Brandon Bass vs. Elton Brand: Both players had breakout performances in Game Five, with Bass scoring a playoff-career high 27 points while Brand led the Sixers with 19. The scary part for Philadelphia has to be that many of the shots that Bass made, were shots that he has had throughout this series. If he's knocking those shots down now, it has the potential to open up more scoring opportunities for the rest of his teammates. "We got a few good players on the team that theyve gotta focus on," Bass said. After the way he ripped the Sixers defense apart in Game 5, Philadelphia might want to add him to that list.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- Once again, it's Kevin Garnett. He's always going to draw the attention of defenses. But after alluding to the Sixers supporters as fair-weather fans, the chorus of boos for him are sure to be amped up even more so and Garnett is going to love it. He is a guy that's always searching for added incentive, added motivation to elevate his game. A room full of folks booing his every move? That'll do it.

STAT TO TRACK -- Jrue Holiday is more of a scoring point guard than his Celtics equivalent Rajon Rondo. But his ability to limit his turnovers has played a vital role in the game's outcome. When he has kept his mistakes to a minimum, the Sixers have had success. But when he has struggled with turnovers, the Celtics have emerged victorious. In the two Philadelphia wins, Holiday has averaged just one turnover committed. In the three losses, that figure more than doubles to 2.67 turnovers per game.

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.