Celtics' experience trumps 76ers' youth in crunch time


Celtics' experience trumps 76ers' youth in crunch time

BOSTON When it comes to playoff experience, it has a way of popping up when you least expect it.

That certainly was the case in Boston's 92-91 Game 1 win over Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics' edge in veteran savvy appeared to play out in the pivotal fourth quarter.

A lay-up by Kevin Garnett with 2:52 to play gave the Celtics an 85-84 lead. They would maintain that lead for the rest of the game, the longest stretch of the night in which the C's were ahead.

Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala said afterward that the loss was "a little bit frustrating" when you consider that for most of the night, the Sixers were in control.

Despite trailing most of the night, C's coach Doc Rivers never sensed there was any panic or fear in his team that they couldn't come back and at the very least, give themselves a chance to win.

"It's funny, when we cut the lead the first time and then they pumped it back up to seven, nine, I'm not sure what it was, I didn't feel bad about the game," Rivers said. "I didn't know if we were going to win or lose; I did feel like mentally our guys were still very much in the game. And, to me, that's a good sign. That doesn't mean you're going to win it, but that means you're going to stay in it and you're going to keep playing the right way."

The Sixers' inability to close out the game down the stretch can be attributed to many things, with the experience gap between the two teams near the top of that list.

"We have to grow from these situations," Iguodala said. "We have a lot of young guys who play a lot of minutes for us. So, end of games, end of halves, those situations and scenarios you can only learn in the situations in the playoffs."

For Boston, Saturday's win was like a refresher course in getting it done in the clutch 101.

It just seemed that when the game was anyone's for the taking, Boston made all the right moves whether it was Rondo drilling a go-ahead jumper, to the C's getting the ball deep into the post to Kevin Garnett, or how they were able to run out the clock at the very end as Rajon Rondo out-ran Evan Turner.

"Experience showed a little bit, especially showed a little bit, especially with the plays they made," Iguodala said. "They knew exactly what they were going to get into and execute it. When we had our two minutes where we really didn't get anything good at the basket, that showed we were trying to figure out what we were going to do. By the time we figured it out, there was five or six seconds on the shot clock and we'd get up a bad shot. But they executed, so in that area we can learn from."

Smart yet to be ruled out of Celtics’ opener


Smart yet to be ruled out of Celtics’ opener

WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Smart remains out with a left ankle sprain injury sustained earlier this week, but has yet to be ruled out for the season opener against Brooklyn next week.

An MRI came back negative on Smart’s ankle, which was good news.

But there’s still a high level of uncertainty as to whether Smart will heal in time for the team’s opener at home against Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

He sprained the left ankle in the second quarter of a 121-96 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday when he stepped on the foot of Knicks guard Justin Holiday.

Smart fell to the floor and was helped to his feet by teammates Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas in addition to the team’s head trainer Ed Lacerte.

The Celtics are indeed hopeful he will heal in time to play next week, but league sources indicate it’s doubtful due to the nature of the injury and Smart’s history with left ankle sprains.

He sustained one in his rookie season and it kept him out for several weeks and he has had a few minor ankle sprains since then.

Even if he shows signs of being healthy enough to play prior to the opener, the Celtics are likely to be overly cautious to best insure that when he does return he does not re-aggravate the ankle.

Smart appeared in all seven preseason games for the Celtics this season, averaging 8.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Smart shot 42 percent from the field, but struggled mightily from 3-point range while connecting on just 13.6 percent of his 3-point shot attempts.

If Smart is unable to play in the opener or potentially longer, look for the Celtics to lean heavily on Terry Rozier who has been the breakout performer for Boston in the summer and in camp.

“I’m just trying to do whatever they need me to do, to help us win games,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “I’m feeling good, real good about where my game’s at now. Obviously we’re a better team in every way, with Marcus out there. But if he’s not ready to go, the next man up has to get the job done. If that’s me, it’s me. I’ll be ready.”