Celtics see results after turning up fourth-quarter intensity

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Celtics see results after turning up fourth-quarter intensity

BOSTON -- The Celtics saved their best for last.

Just as they got better as the regular season went on, they got better as Saturday night's Game 1 went on. With the way it started though, it was hard to get worse.

Boston spotted the 76ers seven points before getting on the board themselves, and trailed by double digits at the end of the first quarter. They stuck around throughout, even taking the lead in the third, but with under 11 minutes to play in the game, the C's were down 10 points.

Enter energy. Witch led to defense. Which, in turn, led to offense.

The Celtics came alive in the fourth quarter, playing the clamp-down defense they've been so known to play over the years. The result? A Philly team that watched its ten-point lead evaporate as each minute went by, finally disappearing with a Rajon Rondo jumper with 3:47 to play.

The Sixers would retake the lead on the next possession, but it was the next play that would sum up the fourth quarter run by the Celtics. An Avery Bradley block on Lou Williams led to a fast break in which Rajon Rondo found Kevin Garnett for the layup and lead the C's would never relinquish.

Yeah, I mean our defense really picked it up there in the 4th quarter," Paul Pierce said. "You know the Sixers are a good team, you cant take nothing away from this. Theres a reason they are here, they are good at executing their plays and make the extra pass, they play unselfish but we just gathered ourselves, gathered ourselves, kept grinding, kept grinding. We started rebounding the ball a lot better and the defense really settled in and thats why we took the lead and overcame.

The Celtics grabbed 28 of their 45 rebounds in the second half, compared to just 16 second-half boards for the Sixers (41 overall). The C's were out-rebounded badly by the Sixers in the regular season, but snapped out of it in the second half of the fourth game since the regular season began.

"You know, I told them at halftime, Listen, they cant be more athletic and play harder. That combination will never work for us." Doc Rivers said. "We had to at least match their intensity, and I thought we did that.

"From a defensive standpoint we didn't do a good job in the first half," Keyon Dooling said. "They kind of picked us apart with their pick-and-roll offense, especially their interior passing. They really carved us up on the inside. We made some adjustments at halftime but more so than anything I think our intensity and our effort turned up. Got a little bit of momentum, took some easy transition baskets, made some hustle plays."

The transition game that resulted from the defensive pressure in the fourth is exactly what the Sixers were hoping to have success in against the C's. But Boston scored seven fast break points in the fourth quarter alone, 14 for the game. The Sixers were held to 13 total.

"We're a very resourceful team," Dooling said. "We can play in the half court. When there's opportunities we like to run. But yeah, no doubt they're a better team in transition -- not to say they can't execute in the half court, but their strength is their transition game so we definitely want to keep them out of it."

First Celtics practice 'a little different' but 'feels right' for Horford

First Celtics practice 'a little different' but 'feels right' for Horford

WALTHAM, Mass. – NBA players are creatures of habit so you can understand why Al Horford was just a little bit out of his element on his first practice with the Boston Celtics.
 
After nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, Horford hit the free agent market this summer and signed a four-year, $113 million with the Celtics.
 
Horford acknowledged that his first practice with the Celtics “was a little different” but added, “It’s definitely a weird feeling, but it feels right to be here.”

Players, coaches, national pundits, the list is seemingly endless when it comes to folks who believe Horford is an ideal fit with the Boston Celtics.
 
“He can do score in the paint, shoot 3s, defend, pass, he can do it all out there,” Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “He’s going to fit in well with us.”
 
But like any rookie or newcomer to a team, Horford admitted he had some moments when he was a step or two late getting to where he needed to be on the floor.
 
“We’re running through a lot of plays, a lot of concepts being thrown out,” Horford said. “It’s a matter of getting comfortable with all the sets.”
 
As much as he will work to figure things out, Horford is wise enough to know he’ll need the help of his new teammates, too.
 
“I’m going to lean on a lot of the guys,” Horford said. “I’ll definitely ask a lot of questions. Avery (Bradley) already has gotten in my ear, anything I need he’s there for me. I just want to get acclimated as fast as I can.”
 
Horford also said that head coach Brad Stevens has been extremely helpful in assisting him in speeding up his learning curve.
 
“Coach (Stevens) is very sharp, very . . .  he explains things well,” Horford said. “He explains things well. He wants practice to move along. The pace of practice, definitely a faster pace.”
 
But you won’t find Horford complaining.
 
Horford is clearly excited about starting this new chapter in his basketball career.
 
“For me it’s more of a relief, finally being here in Boston, house, being settled,” Horford said. “Now we can just focus on the season.”