Celtics blow lead, collapse in Philadelphia, 92-83


Celtics blow lead, collapse in Philadelphia, 92-83

PHILADELPHIA Fast starts, a futile finish.

It has been that way throughout this Boston-Philadelphia playoff series, and Game 4 was no exception.

After a red-hot start by Boston, the Celtics could not overcome a foul-plagued game that ended with a disappointing 92-83 loss.

The series is now tied at 2-2, with Game 5 in Boston on Monday, and Game 6 in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala drilled a 3-pointer with 36.9 seconds to play that put the Sixers ahead 88-83, and all but sealed the victory.

Boston immediately called a time-out, well aware that the odds of them pulling out a win at that point were slim, at best.

Out of the time-out, Ray Allen took a rushed 3-pointer that hit nothing but the outstretched arms of a Sixers big man waiting for the air ball to land in his hands.

Jodie Meeks went to the free throw line and made a pair with 32.2 seconds to play, making the game's outcome a mere formality.

Several factors contributed to the C's loss, but none loom as large as the high number of fouls that the C's were whistled for, with official Bill Kennedy making a number of those calls.

For the game, the Celtics were called for 28 personal fouls compared to 19 for the Sixers. That contributed to Philadelphia taking 36 free throw attempts compared to 19 for the C's.

The Sixers fell behind by as many as 18 points, but rallied to tie the game at 63 with more than 10 minutes to play following a driving lay-up by Thaddeus Young.

From there, it became a game that like the first two, was going to come down to which team did a better job of executing in the game's closing minutes.

Boston went up 79-76 following a pair of free throws from Kevin Garnett, only for Iguodala to hit a game-tying 3-pointer.

His basket was soon followed by a jumper from Rajon Rondo which gave the Celtics an 81-79 lead with 2:49 to play.

For most of the night, the Celtics seemed well on their way to a similar blowout akin to their 16-point Game 3 win on Wednesday night.

Boston pushed its lead up to 18 in the third quarter, but foul trouble was starting to become an issue for the C's as the Sixers continued to make a killin' from the free throw line.

After a free throw by Avery Bradley put the Celtics ahead 49-31, Philadelphia countered with an 8-1 spurt with half of their points coming from the free throw line.

Philadelphia's run and Boston's offensive rut seemingly had no end in sight until Paul Pierce snapped an 0-for-the-quarter shooting slump by the Celtics with a 3-pointer that pushed Boston's lead to 54-46 at the 5:05 mark.

The Celtics had missed their previous nine shot attempts in the quarter.

HOT SHOT: Andre Iguodala came up with one big shot after another for the Sixers, with none bigger than the 3-pointer he hit with 36 seconds to play that put the Sixers ahead by five points. He finished with 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting, along with seven rebounds and four assists.

IN-N-OUT: Kevin Garnett was about as big a non-factor as we've seen him all season. He finished with just nine points on 3-for-12 shooting from the field, along with 11 rebounds and a whopping seven turnovers.

SUPER SUB: Thaddeus Young continues to provide the kind of impact off the bench that has given the Celtics major fits throughout this series. He had 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting, along with nine rebounds and three assists.

TURNING POINT: With the Sixers ahead 85-83, Rajon Rondo missed a driving lay-up attempt that was blocked by Young. Moments later, Iguodala hit a 3-pointer that put the C's on their heels and they were never able to bounce back.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "We lost our composure. We never returned to playing basketball like we did in the first half." - Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue


Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue

Tonight’s pregame number to watch is 45.4%. That was the Celtics' score frequency on pick and rolls finished by the screener last season, which was the worst rate in the NBA.

Score Frequency: The percentage of possession in which the team or player scores at least 1 point.

The major problem for the Celtics last season was personnel, as Jared Sullinger finished the most pick and roll plays for the C’s after setting a screen, and he was -- to put it nicely -- freaking terrible. Sullinger was the second-worst roll/pop man in the league, averaging a paltry 0.87 points per possession.

Fortunately, the Celtics replaced Jared Sullinger with four-time All-Star Al Horford, who is one of the elite roll/pop men in the NBA. Last season, Horford finished fifth in the NBA averaging 1.13 points per possession as a roll/pop man and boasted a more than solid 57.1 eFG% on those plays. 

eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage): Measures field goal percentage adjusting for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. The equation is ((FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

If you watched the preseason, then you already know the kind of impact Horford can have on the Celtics half court offense. So keep an eye out for those pick and rolls tonight and throughout the season, and we should see that 45.4% Score Frequency jump somewhere closer to 50%.

Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win


Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win

BOSTON –  This is not where Al Horford thought he would be right now.
Back in May, the Atlanta Hawks had just been swept out of the playoffs by the soon-to-be NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Disappointed with the outcome obviously, Horford was a free agent-to-be who was confident that he would be back in Atlanta and the Hawks would retool by adding to their core group which he was a major part of, and they would be back to making another run at it this season.
First there was the draft night trade of point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. 
And during Horford's negotiations with the Hawks in July, they were also negotiating with Dwight Howard and ultimately signed the Atlanta native to a three-year, $70.5 million contract. 
Before the Howard deal was complete, the Celtics had already made a strong impression on Horford during their presentation to him. 
So the choice was pretty clear.
Return to Atlanta and potentially have a major logjam up front with himself, Howard and Paul Millsap, or join a Celtics team that’s on the rise where his five-tool skillset – passing, rebounding, defending, scoring and making those around him better – could be put to great use on a team that’s clearly on the rise. 
Horford chose the latter, giving both himself and the Celtics exactly what they wanted – stability and a chance to win at the highest of levels.
The first shot to see how this basketball marriage looks on the floor will be tonight when the Celtics kick off the 2016-2017 season at the TD Garden against the Brooklyn Nets. 
The preseason isn’t the best indicator of what’s on the horizon now that games count, but Horford’s presence was undeniable.
Boston’s starters which includes Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, each finished with a positive, double-digit plus/minus in the preseason. 
“He just makes the game so much easier for all of us,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “He can do so many things out there at both ends of the floor. He’s going to be big for us this season.”
And his impact can be felt both on the floor and inside the locker room, similar to what he brought to the Atlanta Hawks.
“With the way that I go about it is, I’m trying to win,” Horford told CSNNE.com. “I’m gonna work, put in my work, try to help guys get better not only on the court but off the court as well. That’s how I carry myself.”
 And it is that approach to the game that has made his transition to the Celtics a relatively seamless one. 
Horford holds many fond memories of his time in Atlanta, a place that will always be near and dear to his heart. 
But he’s a Celtic now, coming in with the same single-minded focus that drives this organization to continue pursuing the only thing that truly matters to them – an NBA title. 
"Even though I’m leaving a lot behind, as a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”