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."

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."