Celtics-Sixers review: What we saw

Celtics-Sixers review: What we saw
March 8, 2012, 7:09 am
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BOSTON Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked about wanting to have assistant coach Tyronn Lue speak with the media following Wednesday's 103-71 crushing at the hands of Philadelphia.

"Because I have nothing to say," Rivers said.

Indeed, the play of his team spoke volumes about how they looked both mentally and physically fatigued while facing a team that was not only more athletic, but well-rested and desperate for a win after dropping eight of their last 10 games.

And while the story line for most will certainly be how the Celtics were simply a victim of the schedule, Rivers went out of his way to make sure that folks knew that the better team on this day was Philadelphia.

"We just didn't have it," Rivers said. "Philly played terrific. I thought they played hard; they had great energy. We were really sloppy."

Philadelphia did several things well to earn the victory. We highlighted some factors that might contribute to the game's outcome. Here we'll review them and see just how big a deal they turned out to be.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: When you throw in the fact that the Celtics have played back-to-back overtime games, and the fact that the Sixers have a younger, more athletic team, it goes without saying that Philadelphia will try and get out and run as much as possible. Truthfully, strong transition play has been a staple of the Sixers all season. They come into tonight's game ranked 8th in the NBA in fast-break points, with 15.2 per game. Meanwhile, there are few teams -- three, actually -- who do a better job at limiting fast-break points than the C's. The 10.9 points that opponents are scoring against them in fast-break points, is the fourth-lowest average in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Philadelphia did exactly what they wanted to do in terms of establishing their transition game. Their ability to dominate the boards (they were plus-19 for the game) allowed them to get out and attack a Celtics defense that was sluggish most of the night. And the result? A a decisive 26-10 advantage for Philadelphia in fast-break points.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Andre Iguodala: The two all-star wings have both been instrumental to their respective teams being where they are right now. Boston has won five in a row with contributions coming from many. But there's no mistaking the impact made by Pierce, who has had 30 or more points in the last two games by the C's. As for Iguodala, he doesn't score nearly as much as Pierce does, but his ability to defend, rebound and make an impact with his effort and hustle, will make him a tough cover for Pierce and the Celtics.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce may have won the scoring duel (16 to 10, actually), but there was no mistaking that Iguodala had the greater impact on the game's outcome. In addition to scoring 10 points, Iguodala also had a team-high eight assists and seven rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: We have seen the really good (18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists in win over New York) and the really average (nine points, 12 assists in win over Houston) from Rajon Rondo this year. Philadelphia is a big game for the Celtics. And as unpredictable as Rondo can be at times, the one thing that he's pretty steady with is his approach to big games. He has 17 triple-doubles in his career, 14 of which have come during a nationally televised.

WHAT WE SAW: This was not a nationally televised game, so you had a feeling that Rondo wouldn't have a great night. Like just about every other Celtics player to see action, Rondo never got into any kind of flow or rhythm as a scorer or a passer. He had five points on 2-for-6 shooting from the field. Normally one of the Celtic's better rebounders, he had just one. And as far as assists go, Rondo had eight which isn't bad for most -- but clearly a sub-par performance for him. Rondo admits that he and the rest of the C's simply didn't have "it" on Wednesday.

"It was a losing effort as a team," Rondo said. "We're not proud of it. You win some, you lose some. You win as a team, you lose as a team."

STAT TO TRACK: The Celtics will have to find a way to rattle a Philadelphia team that does a great job of taking care of the ball. They turn the ball over just 10.6 times per game, the fewest turnovers committed in the NBA. Although Boston is middle-of-the-pack in terms of turnovers forced this season (15.3, which ranks12th in the NBA), they have forced each of their last three opponents to turn the ball over 20 or more times.

WHAT WE SAW: As usual, the Sixers did an excellent job of taking care of the ball, and allowing the Celtics few opportunities to capitalize on their mistakes. Philadelphia turned the ball over just nine times which led to 11 points for the Celtics.