Celtics-Sixers Game 7 review: C's find a way

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Celtics-Sixers Game 7 review: C's find a way

BOSTON The Boston Celtics closed out their second round series with the Sixers by handing them an 85-75 Game 7 loss.

And they did it without something that the winner in the previous six games all did - win the third quarter.

On Saturday, Boston had a 55-52 lead going into the fourth quarter, but they were out-scored 19-14, in the third.

"No one played great," said Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. "But we found a way to get the win."

Limiting turnovers was one of the keys to Boston's previous three wins, victories that came about in part because they only averaged 10.6 turnovers. But on Saturday, Boston turned the ball over 15 times which led to 21 points for the Sixers.

Despite the turnovers, Boston's defense once again came to the rescue.

Philadelphia is one of the better teams in finding ways to generate offense in transition after getting defensive stops or forcing turnovers.

On Sunday, Boston limited them to just four fast-break points while tallying 14 fast-break points of their own.

Those were just a couple of factors in Boston's Game 7 wins that catapults them to the Eastern Conference finals where they'll face a well-rested Miami Heat squad. Here are some other keys outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out as the C's snapped a two-game Game 7 losing streak with Sunday's win.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics are an older bunch, so maybe there's some truth to the thought that it takes them a while to get going. That certainly has been the case in most of the six games thus far against Philadelphia. In each of their three wins, Boston has trailed at the end of the first quarter only to bounce back and win the second quarter. No team likes to get down early, but it seems to be just what the Celtics have needed in order to be successful.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't trail after the first quarter (the score was tied at 20), but they did deliver a strong second quarter showing that put them ahead, 41-33, at the half. Boston closed out the half by scoring seven of its last eight points.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Elton Brand: This was about as lopsided a matchup as there was for the Celtics through the first three games. Since then, Brand has made this duel far more competitive. For the Celtics to win, Garnett has to do more than just score and rebound. He has to establish his presence around the basket, something he failed to do during the C's Game 6 loss in which he had 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. "Even though Kevin had points, it wasn't the points we needed, the type of points. So we have to do a better job there (going into Game Seven)."

WHAT WE SAW: Both struggled with their shot in the first half, but the edge early on had to go to Garnett who was able to get to the free throw line and was doing a better job on the boards. Garnett finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds while Brand tallied 15 points and six rebounds before fouling out.

PLAYER TO WATCH: This is the biggest - and potentially last - game of the season for the Celtics, the kind of scenario that tends to bring out the best in Rajon Rondo. When you throw in the fact that his Jrue Holiday (20 points, six assists) outplayed him in Game 6, a Rondo-esque performance in the triple-double neighborhood would not come as a surprise to anyone. Improved ball movement is one of the keys that all of the C's - Rondo included - have pointed to as being critical to their success in Game Seven tonight. "The ball stuck in Game Six," Rondo said. "Everyone tried to make the home run plays. It's not a bad thing everyone wants to do well for each other. The way we got to this situation, is moving the ball, sharing the ball. We have to go back to the basics and continue to try and get better."

WHAT WE SAW: Foul trouble limited Rondo to some degree in the first half, but he went into the half very much on track for the all-too-predictable triple-double kind of night Rondo seems to have in these kind of games. At the half, he was literally halfway to a triple-double with five points, five assists and five rebounds. Rondo finished with his ninth triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Among Rondo's clutch plays down the stretch, was a 3-pointer that put the Celtics ahead by 10 points with 2:09 to play. "The 3-point shot, obviously, was big," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "But more, his attack and command."

STAT TO TRACK: Being the aggressor has been the one ingredient for success throughout this series, and nowhere is this more noticeable than at the free throw line. For the Celtics, getting to the free throw line - a lot - will be an absolute must for them to win. In their three victories in this series, the Celtics are averaging 26.7 free throw attempts. In the three losses, that number plummets to 17 per game. The numbers are pretty comparable for the Sixers. In their three wins, they're averaging 27 free throw attempts compared to 19.3 in their three defeats.
WHAT WE SAW: Free throw shooting was not a major factor in the first half, with the Celtics and Sixers having 12 and 11 attempts, respectively. Even more impressive was that Sixers, a horrible free throw shooting team throughout this series, was 10-for-11 while the Celtics were just as impressive in successfully nailing 11 of their 12 free throw attempts. For the game, Boston was 20-for-22 from the line while the Sixers were a not-so-stellar 14 of 20.

Celtics waive guard/forward John Holland

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Celtics waive guard/forward John Holland

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics moved one step closer towards trimming down its overcrowded roster with the waiving of John Holland.

The 27-year-old would have gone into training camp with a very slim shot at making the roster. He signed a two-year deal that would have been worth $874,636 for the 2016-2017 season.

However, the contract was non-guaranteed and would have more than likely been used as part of a potential trade.

But no such deal materialized.

So rather than have the 6-foot-5 guard/forward in training camp with the odds heavily stacked against him making the team, Boston waived him now so that he has enough time to either go to training camp with another NBA team or sign with a team overseas.

Holland, who starred at Boston University, has already played overseas in France, Spain and Turkey in addition to having played with the Development League’s Canton Charge last season.

He played in one game for the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics now have 18 players in training camp, 16 of which have guaranteed contracts.

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown voted most athletic by fellow rookies

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown voted most athletic by fellow rookies

The NBA’s 38 rookies had their annual photo shoot and were polled by NBA.com with a couple of questions about their class. When asked which rookie was the most athletic among them, the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 pick overall last June, won in a landslide.

Here are the results of that question:  

1. Jaylen Brown, Boston -- 38.7%

2. Brice Johnson, L.A. Clippers -- 16.1%

3. Marquese Chriss, Phoenix -- 9.7%

T-4. Malik Beasley, Denver -- 6.5%

Kay Felder, Cleveland -- 6.5%

Gary Payton II, Houston -- 6.5%

Providence guard Kris Dunn, No. 5 pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves was the freshman class’ pick to win rookie of the year honors, with 29 percent of the vote, followed by No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram of the Lakers and No. 1 pick Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Click here for the complete poll. 

 

Mickey has to prove to Celtics he has more than just potential

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Mickey has to prove to Celtics he has more than just potential

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Jordan Mickey. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Jordan Mickey admittedly came to Boston with a chip on his shoulder.

Selected by Boston with the 33rd overall pick, Mickey felt he should have been a first-round pick.

The Celtics felt the same way.

That's why they signed the 6-foot-9 forward from LSU to a four-year, $5 million contract, a deal that made his annual average salary higher than fellow rookie R.J. Hunter, who was taken in the first round by Boston with the 28th overall pick.

While Mickey landed a deal comparable to what a player selected in the first round would make, he still has to prove that he’s more than just a player with potential.

The ceiling for Mickey: Regular rotation

Mickey didn't have the kind of breakout summer that he and the Celtics were hoping for, primarily because of a left shoulder injury that limited his availability.

Mickey did not play for Boston's summer league entry in Salt Lake City because of the injury, but did see action with the Celtics' summer league squad in Las Vegas. 

He appeared in five games, averaging 9.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in 25 minutes, to go with 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Mickey also shot 56.3 percent from the field. 

It was a decent showing, but for Mickey to have the kind of continued growth both he and the Celtics are seeking, he’ll need to become a more consistent defender in addition to continuing to expand his offensive game. 

Like most big men in the NBA, Mickey is doing his best to show that he can help space the floor with his perimeter shooting that extends beyond the 3-point line.

It was something you saw him work during pregame shootarounds with the assistant coaches. In summer league, Mickey was 1-for-3 on 3s.

But Mickey understands he is in the NBA because of what he can do defensively and around the rim. He was the nation's leader in blocked shots per game (3.6) in his final year at LSU. 

And it was among the many areas in which Mickey stood out this past season in his time with the Celtics' Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

Of course, college and D-League success don’t always result in similar results in the NBA.

But when it comes to Mickey, he has shown himself capable of doing some impressive feats defensively in a very small and limited role in the NBA.

Although he only appeared in 16 NBA games as a rookie, Mickey was the only player who held opponents to less than 50 percent shooting in the restricted area (48.9 percent), in the non-restricted area in the paint (46.2 percent) and mid-range (44.4).

In addition, opponents shot 16.7 and 18.8 percent from the left corner on 3s and above-the-break 3s, respectively.

Mickey finding a way to continue improving as an offensive player while providing the same level of play defensively will go far in him solidifying a place for himself in the Celtics’ regular rotation.

The floor for Mickey: Roster spot

The Celtics have too many players in training camp and someone with guaranteed money has to go, but don’t look for it to be Jordan Mickey. The Celtics didn’t sign him to a four-year deal worth end-of-the-first-round money to not at least see what he can do given more of an opportunity to play. He spent most of his rookie season with the Maine Red Claws. 

And his time there was indeed well spent. 

He appeared in 23 games for the Red Claws and was named a D-League all-star before finishing the season averaging a double-double of 17.4 points and 10.3 rebounds along with a league-best 4.4 blocks per game. In addition to shooting 53.1 percent from the field, Mickey showed he had some range as well while connecting on 35 percent of his 3-point shots.

Mickey has shown the kind of promise that the Celtics want to see more of before making a decision on his long-term future. 

That is why worst-case scenario for Mickey this season, barring him being traded, is for him to be another available body on the Celtics bench.