Celtics keep rolling, blow out Sixers, 103-79

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Celtics keep rolling, blow out Sixers, 103-79

BOSTON Sunday's game wasn't a must-win for the Boston Celtics.

But you wouldn't know it by the way they approached the game, easily defeating Philadelphia 103-79 on Sunday.

With the win, Boston (32-24) now has a three-game lead in the Atlantic Division on the slumping Sixers (29-27).

After a relatively close first quarter, Boston began to pull away in the second and led, 50-36, at the half.

The third quarter has usually been a good one for Philadelphia, which came into Sunday's game giving up an NBA-low 20.7 points per game.

Needless to say, that number will take a bit of a spike after the C's lit the Sixers up for 34, third-quarter points to take an 84-63 lead into the fourth.

At a time when teams are trying to balance staying healthy with winning games, the C's are managing to do both just fine.

Because of the blowout nature of the game on Sunday which came after a strong performance by the C's bench the previous night in Indiana, a number of key Celtics got more in-game rest than usual.

However, the Sixers made a bit of a mini-run in the fourth to cut Boston's lead to 86-70 which is when head coach Doc Rivers brought Kevin Garnett back in the game.

Garnett, who has missed a number of shots he normally makes lately, was among the Celtics playing good basketball on Sunday.

He finished with 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting. Boston got another strong game from Paul Pierce (17 points, five rebounds) and a good bounce-back showing by Brandon Bass.

After scoring just two points while missing all of his shots from the field at Indiana on Saturday, Bass had 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting against the Sixers.

And last but certainly not least, was Rajon Rondo.

The 6-1 playmaker continues to play at an exceptional level as he finished with seven points along with 15 assists.

To put Rondo's night in perspective, he had nine assists in the third quarter alone which nearly doubled the number of assists (5) of the Sixers in that quarter.

But in 2011-2012 Celtics fashion, they allowed Philadelphia to make the game mildly interesting in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers trailed by 14 and had a chance to cut into the C's lead even further. But Evan Turner, who had a career-high 26 points against Boston earlier this season, turned the ball over.

Moments later, Sasha Pavlovic drained a 3-pointer to put the Celtics up by 17. Another Sixers turnover followed, which led to a breakaway attempt by Avery Bradley who was fouled on the play.

There was still another six minutes of basketball to play, but it was clear that Philadelphia could not muster up enough plays to come back and make the game close. And the Celtics were clearly in no mood to allow this game to become even mildly interesting.

And the seal-the-deal moment that this was over?

The appearance of Gino on the JumboTron with 2:28 to play and the C's up 96-76.

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.