Celtics - Sixers preview: Ball movement key for C's

Celtics - Sixers preview: Ball movement key for C's
April 14, 2014, 12:30 pm
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PHILADELPHIA — As much as the Boston Celtics would have loved to have bottled up Saturday's performance in Cleveland and brought it with them to Philadelphia tonight, things don't quite work that way in the NBA.

Just as impressive as the win itself, was the way it came about in the Celtics' ball movement.

They finished with 27 assists on 42 made field goals, but that doesn't begin to tell the story of how well Boston, for a change, kept the ball on-the-go, all game.

"A lot of times when you get a big lead, you tend to get complacent, and kind of forget about what got you, where you're at," Boston's Phil Pressey, told CSNNE.com. "You just have to stay the course and keep playing the game the right way, no matter if you're up 20 or down 20."

With Rajon Rondo's season not starting until January, it doesn't come as a surprise that the Celtics have fallen to bottom 10 in three major assist-related categories.

Boston averages 21 assists per game which is No. 23 in the NBA. The Celtics' assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.36 which comes in at No. 25 in the league.

And their assists per 100 possessions, also known as assists ratio, is 16.2 which is the league's eighth-worst (or No. 23 depending on how you want to spin it).

While Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was noticeably pleased with his team's overall play on Saturday, he understands that it was one of the more tangible examples of how Boston's offense has improved from where they were at the start of the season.

"Our guys are finding guys," Stevens said.

Here are some keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  Limiting mistakes and solid transition defense were two of the pillars of success for Boston on Saturday. The Celtics committed five turnovers in the first half, but it only led to a single point for Cleveland. And the Cavaliers finished with just 10 fast-break points which is less than the Celtics' season average of fast break points allowed (13.2) per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kelly Olynyk vs Henry Sims
Nothing says, 'the season's just about over' more than an Olynyk-Sims duel as being a key battle. Olynyk is coming off one of his best games of the season, tallying 25 points and 12 rebounds in Boston's win at Cleveland. And the Celtics remember Sims as being a difference-maker in Philadelphia's win last week in Boston when he tallied 24 points and 18 rebounds.

Green's aggressiveness getting to the basket at the start of Saturday's win in Cleveland was a big factor in setting the tone for Boston's victory. All six of his free throw attempts (he made four) came in the first quarter. They'll need more of the same from him tonight.

STAT TO TRACK: There will be plenty of missed shots at both ends of the floor tonight, which actually works out well for both teams. Boston is averaging 12 offensive rebounds per game which ranks 7th in the NBA. Not too far behind them is the Sixers whose 11.7 offensive rebounds per game comes in at No. 9.