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."

Blakely's five thoughts from the Green and White Scrimmage

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Blakely's five thoughts from the Green and White Scrimmage

Click here for the gallery. 

BOSTON – As has been customary with the Celtics in recent years, their open practice on Friday night featured a pair of 10-minute scrimmages pitting the “Green” team of starters against the “White” team of reserves.
 
The White team, which apparently has been kicking the Green team’s butt for a good chunk of camp, emerged with a 33-26 win. And the Green team had to rally to win the second scrimmage, 24-18.

Similar to summer league, you can’t read too much into what happened and what didn’t happen on Friday night.
 
That said, there were a number of clear and undeniable positives for the Celtics to take from the game and hopefully build upon them going forward.
 
 
5. Al Horford's leadership established
 
The first player’s voice that the 6,000-plus fans at the TD Garden heard from was Al Horford and don’t think for a minute that was just happenstance.
 
For all the scoring and rebounding and defending that the Celtics will look for Horford to do, it is his ability to lead this team that separates him from most of his NBA brethren.
 
The fact that he’s a four-time All-Star speaks to what he has done in this league as a player. But even more telling is that was the fact that he’s been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA. And during that span of nine years, he has been pivotal in leading Atlanta beyond the first round – a primary goal for him and the Celtics this season – five times.
 
 
4. Celtics defense could be an elite unit this season
 
The Celtics were a top-10 defensive team last season, and have every reason to believe that they’ll be even better now. Boston has a trio of Pit Bull-like defenders on the perimeter in Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and All-NBA first team defender Avery Bradley. Throw in Jae Crowder’s defensive versatility at the wing along with a pair of upper echelon rim-protectors in Amir Johnson and Al Horford and the Celtics no longer are a team that can put a couple good defenders on the floor at one time. They actually have the depth now to go with a ‘Big’ all-defensive team or a ‘small ball’ all-defensive team which provides the kind of versatility that should result in Boston being a top-3 defensive team this season.
 
 
3. Marcus Smart poised for breakout season
 
Smart seemed about as comfortable as we’ve seen him on Friday, showcasing his range as a shooter while still being able to get after it defensively. Based on what he has done in terms of improving his game, Smart seems more likely to play off the ball than on it. With his size, strength, athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If Boston does indeed have one of those magical-type seasons, Smart is a player that has the potential to help significantly. He understands the Celtics’ system inside and out, and is doing what young players on the rise should do – show growth as a player.
 
 
2. James Young playing best basketball at right time
 
These are some pretty stressful times for James Young, but you wouldn’t know it by the extremely cool demeanor he has exuded. Although it has only been a few short days of training camp, James Young has stepped up his game knowing anything less than his best could result in him being waived and potentially on his way out of the NBA. During the first Green-White scrimmage on Friday night, Danny Ainge said there were five guys essentially fighting for two roster spots. He didn’t single out Young specifically, but it’s no secret that the 21-year-old who is heading into third NBA season is among the players in that group. To Young's credit, he's doing a lot of those little things such as playing solid defense, getting deflections and making "hockey assists" to show he belongs in the NBA and more significantly, should remain a Celtic. 
  
1. Terry Rozier's tremendous strides
 
Rozier was the star of the two scrimmages the Celtics put on in front of about 6,000 people at the TD Garden Friday night. He scored, got assists, rebounded … he did it all. What impressed me the most about him was his defense on Isaiah Thomas. Rozier loves Thomas and respects the hell out of him. But Rozier  has made no secret about wanting to get more playing time this year, and is out to snatch some of the minutes from anyone ahead of him, Thomas included. We saw the tenacious potential Rozier has as an on-the-ball defender, but he seems to have taken that up a notch from his rookie season. And the confidence he has in his shot-making is undeniable. We saw that in summer league and it’s good to see that he brought it with him into training camp. Ditto for his decision-making and leading of the team at the point which are also areas in which he has improved but still needs to continue to get better at on a more consistent basis. There’s no doubt at this point Rozier will play this season and likely get a lion’s share of the minutes vacated by Evan Turner’s departure to Portland.