BOSTON The Boston Celtics' suffocating defense has claimed yet another victim in Philadelphia, with the Green Team pulling away for a 103-79 blowout victory. Boston had five players in double figures scoring, led by Kevin Garnett's 20 points and Rajon Rondo's 15 assists. But the credit for this win has to go to the C's defense which limited Philadelphia to shooting just 38.2 percent from the field. "Last two games, really, the defense has been just great," said C's coach Doc Rivers.
And while there's plenty of statistical data to show how well Boston's defense played, the number that really jumps out is the turnovers.
Philadelphia came into Sunday's game averaging a league-low 11 turnovers. The Sixers (29-27) had 11 at the half and finished with 16 for the game.
Forcing turnovers was indeed one of the factors contributing to the Celtics' big win. Here are some of the other keys identified prior to the game, and how they actually played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Bench play is always important, but you have to wonder how will Boston's second unit respond to facing a Sixers team whose backups have collectively been one of the most productive groups in the NBA this season. Ray Allen has come off the C's bench the last two games, and isn't likely to return to the starting lineup. That gives the C's a prolific scoring threat off the bench, coupled with the steadily improving play of Greg Stiemsma. Celtics veteran Sasha Pavlovic was the C's eighth man on Saturday and responded with an eight-point game in just over 14 minutes of action. Philadelphia is getting 40.3 points per game off its bench, the third-highest scoring bench in the NBA. Keeping them at or below their average will be critical for Boston to win.
WHAT WE SAW: Philadelphia had 40 points off the bench, but the bulk of it came well after the game was decided in Boston's factor. In terms of reserves who impacted the game, Boston's Big Three off the bench - Ray Allen, Sasha Pavlovic and Greg Stiemsma - all made their presence felt in some form or another. Allen had 10 points, Pavlovic grabbed six rebounds and Stiemsma had three blocked shots. They were especially impressive in the second quarter which is when the C's began to pull away. "The second unit in the second quarter was as good as you can get," Rivers said. Sixers coach Doug Collins saw Sunday's game as a microcosm of sorts on how things have been lately for his team. "Yesterday our bench had 51 points and our starters couldn't make a shot. Today, our starters had some points and our bench couldn't score."
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Ray Allen vs. Lou Williams: It's not often that you have as much star power as tonight's game has, and the key matchup involves a pair of non-starters. But Allen and Williams, by all accounts, are not your typical backups. Allen is the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made and is the C's third-leading scorer. Williams is the Sixers' top scorer, and is on track to become the first player since Dell Curry in 1993-1994 with Charlotte, to lead his team in scoring without making a single start.
WHAT WE SAW: This matchup, much like the game itself, never materialized into much of a duel. Lou Williams had eight points on 2-for-7 shooting while Allen had 10 points for the C's on 4-for-9 shooting.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass is coming off arguably his worst shooting performance for the Celtics. A double-digit scorer most nights, Bass missed all six of his shots from the field against the Pacers and finished with two points.
WHAT WE SAW: Bass is too good a shooter to have another game like the 0-for against Indiana. The 6-foot-8 forward was nearly flawless on Sunday, finishing with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting. "Night like last night, I think it happens once a year," Bass said. "You know what I mean? Since I got that out of the way, I can move in the right direction."
STAT TO TRACK: Both Boston and Philadelphia will look to get out and run when the opportunity presents itself. Good luck with that mission. Tonight's game features two of the league's best at limiting fast-break points, a credit to both teams placing a strong emphasis on getting back in transition defensively after as many made and missed shots, as possible. Boston has been strong in this area, giving up just 12 points per game which ranks sixth in the NBA. The Sixers? Even better. Teams are getting a league-low 9.9 fast-break points against Philadelphia this season.
WHAT WE SAW: Both teams had 14 fast-break points so this category was never a factor in the game's final outcome.