Celtics-Sixers Game 3 review: C's respond

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Celtics-Sixers Game 3 review: C's respond

PHILADELPHIA So much for that struggling Boston Celtics offense.

Unlike Games 1 and 2, this one would not come down to the wire.

Not even close.

Boston doubled up the Sixers in the second quarter (32-16), setting the stage for a dominate 107-91 victory.

The Celtics' ability to limit Philadelphia's dribble penetration forced them to play against a set Celtics defense. And that defense was able to rebound the ball and most important, keep the Sixers defense on its heels most of the night.

And it was the C's defense, more than anything else, that contributed to their highest scoring game in the playoffs.

"You need easy baskets in this series," said C's coach Doc Rivers.

Using its defense to generate offense was an important factor in Boston's Game 3 win. Here are some other keys identified earlier, and how those factors actually played out as the Celtics take a 2-1 series lead in their best-of-seven series with Philadelphia.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Brandon Bass came out smoking in Game 2 by making his first three shots, and cooled off considerably afterward. It'll be interesting to see if the C's try to get him going as they did in Game 2, or will they try to establish Kevin Garnett - their best player in this series - offensively in the post early.

WHAT WE SAW: Bass was involved offensively, but not nearly to the extent he was in Game 2 - and the Celtics were a better team for it. Bass finished with 10 points on 5-for-10 shooting which included five rebounds. It was the first game Bass has shot 50 percent from the field or better and scored in double figures, during the playoffs. "It's going to come," Bass said. "Tonight, do the other things. That's what everybody did, and that's what I'll continue to do and hopefully my (shooting) rhythm will come back soon."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Jrue Holiday: Rondo has been better in this series, but the gap isn't nearly as wide as you would expect. Holiday has shown the ability to break down the Celtics defense and get into the lane more than C's head coach Doc Rivers feels comfortable with, clearly. Rondo has to do a better job of keeping him out of the lane so that the bigs behind Rondo, won't have to rotate as much defensively and thus be out of position to rebound.

WHAT WE SAW: Now that's more like it. Holiday had a solid game (15 points, nine assists and six rebounds), but Rondo was without question the superior player. In addition to scoring 23 points, Rondo also had a very Rondo-like night with six rebounds and 14 assists with just one turnover.

PLAYER TO WATCH: With so many superstars in this game, Sixers rookie Lavoy Allen has been the X-factor guy in this series. His defense on Kevin Garnett in itself would be enough. But he's averaging 11 points in this series, held his own on the boards, and he's shown no hesitation in his game - which is what you tend to see with rookies in the playoffs for the first time. "I know my job is to go out, defend, rebound and maybe score a little," Allen told CSNNE.com. "I'm just trying to do what I can to help us win."

WHAT WE SAW: Lavoy Allen, Earth. Earth, meet Lavoy Allen. Allen didn't have a terrible game, but his impact wasn't anything close to what it was in Games 1 and 2. He finished with four points on 2-for-4 shooting.

STAT TO TRACK: Rebounding is one of the more basic statistics available, and it should speak clearly as to who will win tonight. In Game 1, Boston won the battle on the boards and thus, they won the game. In Game 2, the Sixers controlled the action around the glass, and they came away the victory.

WHAT WE SAW: Just like Games 1 and 2, the winner of the boards was the winner of the game. Boston out-rebounded the Sixers 44-37, an unusual large rebounding margin for a Celtic team that's been among among the worst rebounding teams all season. "We ran into a Celtics team that had a real purpose about them," said Sixers coach Doug Collins. "This was a team you could see coming in, did not want to be down 2-1 playing Game 4."

Bradley steps up to lead Celtics to 117-87 blowout win over Magic

Bradley steps up to lead Celtics to 117-87 blowout win over Magic

It was one of Tacoma, Washington’s finest carrying the scoring load most of Wednesday night for the Boston Celtics. 
 
But it wasn’t the Celtics’ leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas. 
 
It was his backcourt mate and fellow Tacoma, Wash. native Avery Bradley picking up the slack in Thomas’ absence as Boston pulled away in the second half for a 117-87 blowout win over the Orlando Magic. 
 
Wednesday’s victory was Boston’s first in Orlando since Nov. 8, 2013. 
 
Bradley led seven double-figure scorers for Boston (13-9), with a team-high 23 points.
 
Thomas missed his first game of the season with a right groin injury that will sideline him for a yet-to-be-determined period of time. 
 
The 5-foot-9 guard ranks among the NBA’s leaders in scoring (26.0) in addition to leading the Celtics in assists (6.2) per game. 
 
But Bradley was up to the challenge of filling the void left by Thomas, which isn’t all that surprising when you consider the game was away from the TD Garden. 
 
Bradley has been good this year, but has really stood out in road games where he has averaged 19.0 points on 51.4 percent shooting from the field compared to 15.8 points on 41.3 percent shooting at the TD Garden. 
 
The first half was a tightly contested game with neither team leading by more than eight points. 
 
After Orlando scored the first basket of the third quarter, the Celtics went on a furious 18-2 run to lead 67-54 which had five different scorers for Boston that spoke volumes about the balanced offensive attack the Celtics came with to make up for Thomas’ absence. 
 
Boston’s defense picked up its intensity in the second half, but just as important was the renewed emphasis on ball movement that was simple, crisp and highly effective. 
 
And it came against an Orlando team that came in having won four of its last five games – all on the road – which included beating the always-challenging San Antonio Spurs on their home floor. 
 
But as important as it was for Bradley to help fill the enormous scoring void that exists without Thomas, Boston also needed a strong game from their bench. 
 
That’s exactly what they got, and it wasn’t just one or two guys, either. 
 
Jaylen Brown had arguably the best game of his still-young NBA career coming off the Celtics bench, finishing with 13 points which included a powerful, rim-rattling dunk over Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic
 
Boston also got great play out of Terry Rozier (career-high 16 points, five rebounds) who saw a few more minutes than usual because of Thomas’ injury. 
 
Not only was the victory important to pad the win total, but it also provides a nice boost of confidence for the Celtics as they hit what will be arguably the most difficult stretch of the season in terms of quality opponents. 
 
The Celtics have 12 games remaining this month, with the teams having a combined record of 152-105, or a winning percentage of .591.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics-Magic close at the half

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics-Magic close at the half

Playing without Isaiah Thomas for the first time this season, the Boston Celtics managed to keep the game relatively close with Orlando and went into the half trailing 50-49.
 
Orlando led for the entire first quarter, only for the Celtics to go ahead 28-27 behind a dunk by Jaylen Brown just 47 seconds into the second quarter. 
 
Neither team led by more than five points for the rest of the half. 
 
The Celtics were playing without Thomas (right groin) who leads the team in scoring (26.0) and assists (6.2) this season. 
 
Replacing him in the starting lineup was Marcus Smart who has five previous starts this season, but each came at the small forward position while Wednesday’s start came at the point.
 
One of the big concerns the Celtics had coming in was how they would hold their own against the Magic’s beefy, physical frontline that includes Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 
 
At the half, the Celtics were in a 19-all tie on the boards and actually had a 10-7 advantage in second-chance points.
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and duds from the first half of Wednesday’s game.
 
 
STARS

 
D.J. Augustin

The Magic point guard got hot at the end of the second quarter, finishing the half with a pair of 3’s that were part of a 15-point first half.
 
Avery Bradley

With no Thomas, there was need for Bradley to step up and deliver more offensively. He led the Celtics with 12 first-half points on 4-for-8 shooting.
 

STUDS
 
Evan Fournier

His shot-making at the start of the game was a big key for the Magic, finishing with 10 first-half points (all in the first quarter) to go with four assists.
 
Marcus Smart

He’s not going to score like Isaiah Thomas, but Smart can knock down open looks when they come his way. He had nine points in first half on 3-for-4 shooting.
 

DUDS

Boston 3-point shooting

The Celtics were brutal from 3-point range in the first half, missing 13 of their 14 3-point attempts. Making matter worst, Orlando was a near-perfect 8-for-10 from 3-point range.