Celtics let Sixers steal game that was all but theirs

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Celtics let Sixers steal game that was all but theirs

PHILADELPHIA It all seemed so easy - too easy, actually.

Boston raced out to a double digit lead, saw its control of the game max out at 18 points in the third quarter and then nothing.

As dominate as the C's were in the first half, they were equal parts dormant and dumbfounded in the second which led to a hard-to-stomach 92-83 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

At least the C's continue their season-long trend of making things much harder than they need to be.

Had they won on Friday night, the Celtics would have had a vice-like grip on the series, and an extra day off to prepare for what should have been a close-out game, at home, on Monday.

Instead, the series is now knotted at 2-2, and once again the Celtics did just enough things wrong to give the Sixers another boost of confidence.

For Philadelphia, they now have hope - legit hope - that they can do more than just make this series interesting they can win it.

"Once they picked up their intensity, I don't think we played with a sense of urgency," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "When you have a team on its back, you're up 15, you can take their confidence and we didn't do that. When you give a team life, they're going to run and it carried into the third and fourth quarter."

At this point in the season, regardless of how the game was being officiated - Boston was whistled for 28 personal fouls compared to 18 for Philadelphia - there's no excuse for not having a heightened sense of urgency.

And when you consider all that the C's had to gain with a win and how they played in the first half, it becomes yet another one of those inexplicable head-scratching games that the Celtics have provided at various points this season.

"Now we've got a chance for Game 5 with an even series, now 2-2, and we'll see where we can go from here," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.

For Boston, there's only one place to go from here - back home and get a victory.

The C's spoke in measured, level-headed tones following Friday night's loss, but just below the surface is an angry team that's well aware that they let a perfectly good opportunity to take a commanding lead in the series get away from them.

But their anger wasn't directed at the Sixers, or their fans, or officials Bill Kennedy, Scott Foster and Bill Spooner.

They were upset with themselves.

Because this loss, like most of their losses, had more to do with them not doing what they do consistently, than it had to do with the other team playing a great game.

"It's frustrating," Kevin Garnett acknowledged. "We had a team down and we didn't finish them off. That's pretty disappointing. So we gotta go back home .. and get ready for the next game."

Part of that preparation involves moving past Game 4, a game that the Celtics know was one in which they let the Sixers off the hook.

"We're a strong-minded team," said C's guard Rajon Rondo. "We're a veteran team, and we know we kind of let this one slip away. They felt like they let a couple slip away early. Regardless of how each team feels, you still have to go out there and play the game. So, we'll be ready come Game 5."

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

BOSTON – There were a bunch of numbers from Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday that stood out. 

Among the eye-grabbing stats was the fact that the Celtics had taken 42 3s (with 15 makes), an unusually high number of attempts that we may see matched or even surpassed tonight against the Sacramento Kings. 

Don’t count head coach Brad Stevens among those surprised to see the Celtics attempt a lot of three-pointers. 

Last season the Celtics took 26.1 three-pointers per game which ranked 11th in the NBA. 

This season they’re up to 31.2 three-pointers attempted and 11.3 made which both rank fifth in the NBA. 

You can count Kelly Olynyk among the Celtics pleased with the team's increased emphasis on shooting 3s. 

The 7-foot led the NBA in shooting percentage (.405) on 3s taken last season.

"We play a lot of spread offense with four shooters, four perimeter guys," Olynyk, who is shooting 38.1 percent on 3s this season, told CSNNE.com. "We're trying to make teams shrink their defense and spray out and hopefully make shots. You're making extra passes, giving up good ones for great ones. And we have some pretty good shooters on our team. That's the way we're trying to play. It's just a matter of us making shots."

And the Celtics face a Kings team ranks among the NBA’s worst at limiting 3-point attempts with Sacramento opponents averaging 28.4 three-pointers taken per game which ranks 25th in the league. 

One of Stevens’ main points about three-pointers is while it’s an important shot for them, they need to be the right shot, the right basketball play at the right time. 

And when asked about the 42 attempts against the Pistons, he was quick to acknowledge those were for the most part the right shots to be taken. 

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day we want lay-ups. And if we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. If the defense shrinks in, you’re able to touch the paint and kick out. Two of our last three games, maybe three of the last four, two-thirds of our possessions we touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s our objective. We’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot. We’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate. And we haven’t scored in transition. To be able to be sitting where we are offensively, a big reason is because we space the floor.”

Barnes, Cousins trying to keep 'emotions and energy focused'

Barnes, Cousins trying to keep 'emotions and energy focused'

BOSTON – No one is proclaiming DeMarcus Cousins’ demeanor is all that radically different than past seasons. 

But the volatile nature that has often overshadowed his on-the-court-brilliance, doesn’t seem to shine as brightly as it used to. 

Maybe he’s growing up. 

Maybe he’s finally comfortable with his team. 

And then there’s the almighty dollar which was the incentive for one of his teammates, Matt Barnes, to clean up his act as far as racking up technical fouls and being fined by the league. 

I asked Barnes whether there was a light bulb moment or a teammate or player that helped him get on track and not draw so much attention from officials and the league office. 

“It was all the money I was being fined,” he said. “I think I lost like $600,000 over my career for fines. It was time to kind of wake and say ‘hey, they don’t like you so you have to stick to the book.’”

With Barnes returning to Sacramento (he played for the Kings during the 2004-2005 season), he finds an intense, kindred spirit of sorts in Cousins who like Barnes has had his share of technical and fines handed down by the league office. 

This season, Cousins is the NBA’s leader in technical fouls with six. 

“I’ve always had a good head on my shoulders,” Barnes said. “I’m just a passionate player. I play with my emotion on my sleeve. I think DeMarcus does the same thing. What I’m trying to show him now, we have to keep our emotions and energy focused towards the right things. That could be detrimental to the team if it gets out of hand.”

First-year coach Dave Joerger has been pleased to see how different Cousins is to be around on a daily basis as opposed to how he’s perceived. 

“He gets credit for his talent. He gets credit that he’s improved in the league,” Joerger said. “I think he doesn’t get enough credit for the way that his approach to the game and the way that he’s carrying himself and conducting himself has greatly improved. He’s a good person. Now being with him, I see improvement over the last three years, the way that he goes about his business. I think that’s very positive.”