On Monday night the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will battle to gain in edge in the Eastern Conference Semifinals series tied at 2-2. Here are five stats to keep in mind for Game 5.
1. Rondo Moving Up the Ranks
After dishing 15 assists in Game 4, Rajon Rondo (736) is now three assists shy of tying Dennis Johnson for fifth most postseason assists in Celtics franchise history. Larry Bird ranks first with 1,062 postseason assists, followed by Bob Cousy (937), John Havlicek (825), and Bill Russell (770).
2. The Writings on the Glass:
The Celtics are undefeated this postseason (5-0) when outrebounding or grabbing the same number of rebounds as their opponent. They have only won one playoff game when being outrebounded (1-4).
3. Looking to Jumpstart the Week:
The Celtics have played one playoff game on a Monday this postseason, last week's 82-81 Game 2 loss to the 76ers. It is the only day of the week on which they have a losing record (SundayTuesdayWednesdayFriday, 1-1, ThursdaySaturday, 1-0).
4. Bouncing Back:
Both teams are 4-0 in the game immediately following a loss this postseason. In the first round of the playoffs, the Celtics and the 76ers lost Games 1 and 5 and won Games 2 and 6. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the 76ers followed up losses in Games 1 and 3 with wins in Games 2 and 4. After losing Game 2, the Celtics won Game 3 and look to take Game 5 after falling short in Game 4.
5. Title Experience:
None of the 76ers have won an NBA championship. Four of the Celtics (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo) have.
WALTHAM -- Go up and down the Boston Celtics roster and you won’t have any trouble finding players who will be cheering on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
But there are some Celtics who understandably have mixed feelings about the game.
Among them is Jae Crowder, who grew up in Villa Rica, Ga. which is about 32 miles outside of Atlanta.
“I’ve been cheering for the Falcons all my life,” Crowder said. “I’m here in Boston; I’ve been a Patriots fan.”
And within that fandom, Crowder has developed a friendship with New England players, among them being Patriots running back LaGarrette Blount.
Not soon after the Patriots punched their ticket to the Super Bowl, Crowder got a text message from Blount.
“He knows,” Crowder said of Blount. “Yeah, he knows I’m in between.”
Isaiah Thomas, whose hometown Seattle Seahawks were beaten by the Falcons, said Crowder didn’t become a Falcons fan until they made the playoffs.
“Bandwagon? But I just took his money though,” quipped Crowder, referring to the Falcons beating the Seahawks in an earlier round of the playoffs. “We did them Seahawks real dirty; bandwagon.”
He’s not the only Celtics player with ties to Atlanta.
Boston rookie Jaylen Brown grew up just a few minutes outside of Atlanta in Marietta, Ga.
Thomas said Brown is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
“I don’t know how that is,” Thomas said. “Don’t let him tell you he’s an Atlanta Falcons fan. Jae just started reppin’ them when they made the playoffs. They can do what they want; they might as well root for the Patriots.”
For Thomas, cheering for the Patriots is more than just supporting his fellow professional athletes. As he tries to continue growing as a player and a leader for the Celtics, the Patriots and the way they do things in many ways has been a blueprint of sorts for Thomas.
“They’re the team you want to be,” Thomas said. “Every year they give themselves a chance. From top to bottom, they’re 100 percent professional. They think championship every year. That’s how you should be. We want to model that. Hopefully the can go out and win it, and we can try to piggy-pack on what they did.”
Another Celtic with Atlanta ties is Al Horford, who made it clear which team had his support.
“Going to school in Florida, being in the south for so many years, college football is kind of my thing,” said Horford, who revealed that he never attended a Falcons during his nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. “I would watch them on TV and stuff like that. I know it’s exciting for them. It’s a big deal to be in the Super Bowl. But I’m here in New England now so I’ll be cheering for the Patriots.”
WALTHAM -- You won’t find the Boston Celtics blaming anyone but themselves for Saturday’s 127-123 overtime loss to Portland.
But they certainly didn’t get any breaks down the stretch from the referees, who made a huge officiating mistake in the final seconds of regulation.
Following a Celtics miss in the game’s closing seconds, Blazers guard Damian Lillard wound up with the ball but was stripped almost immediately by Marcus Smart, who put the steal back in for a lay-up that would have given Boston a one-point lead with 10.8 seconds to play.
The ruling on the floor at the time was a foul against Smart. But officials later determined as part of their report on the final two minutes of the game, that the foul against Smart was an incorrect call.
“It just pisses you off, doesn’t it?” Crowder said. “It just pisses you off. I don’t like it.”
Crowder, like a number of players I have spoken to about this particular subject, is not a fan of the league releasing the information.
And his reasoning, like his NBA brethren, is simple.
There’s no recourse relative to that particular game if the officials in fact got a call wrong.
So for their purposes, the transparency that the league is seeking, while just, doesn’t do them a damn bit of good when it comes to what matters most to them. Which is wins and losses.
“It’s over now. It’s too late to confirm it now,” said Smart who told media following the loss that the steal was clean. “The game is over with. It is what it is; on to the next game now.”
Smart added that having the league confirm the call was wrong is frustrating.
“They come back and tell you they miss the call, but it’s over now,” Smart said. “We’re on to the next game. It’s like they shouldn’t even said it. But I understand it; they’re trying to take responsibility and show they made a bad call. We appreciate it but at that time as a player it’s frustrating. That possibly could have won us the game.”
But as Smart, coach Brad Stevens and other players asked about it mentioned, Boston made so many mistakes against the Blazers and played so uncharacteristically for long stretches that it would be unfair and just not right to pin the game’s outcome on one bad call late in the game.
“It happens,” said Stevens who added that he’s never read a two-minute report other than what he has seen published by the media. “There were plenty of things we could have done better.”
That blown call didn’t cost the Boston Celtics the game.
Their play did.
The Celtics turned the ball over 21 times that led to 34 points, both season highs.
They couldn’t contain C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, two of the league’s most explosive guards who combined for 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting.
Boston allowed Myers Leonard to score a season-high 17 points.
Certainly the bad call against Smart was a factor.
But it would not have been an issue if the Celtics had done a better job of controlling the things they could have controlled, like defending shooters better, making smarter decisions when it came to passing the ball and maybe most significant, play with a higher, more consistent level of aggression around the rim.