Celtics take back home court with 107-91 win over Sixers

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Celtics take back home court with 107-91 win over Sixers

PHILADELPHIA It wasn't supposed to be like this.

The Boston Celtics were hurting at so many positions. The Sixers had home court advantage and apparently some momentum from their Game 2 win, and would feed off their fans.

And you know what all that meant to the Celtics?

Absolutely nothing.

The only thing the C's were concerned about was getting a win, something they were able to do in emphatic fashion with a 107-91 victory. The C's now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 in Philadelphia on Friday and Game 5 back in Boston on Monday.

The 'You Can't Stop Me' Tour featuring Kevin Garnett was rolling along, with Garnett delivering yet another show-stopping performance with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Rajon Rondo had a solid night as well, with 23 points, 14 assists and six rebounds. Ditto for Paul Pierce (24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists).

After taking a double-digit lead into the half, the Celtics were hoping that the third quarter would be better - much better - than it was for them in Games 1 and 2.

In less than five minutes, the Celtics' lead had ballooned to 20 points (71-51) with Garnett leading the charge.

His ability to score both inside the paint and from the perimeter, not to mention his defense, was just too much for the Sixers to handle.

Boston's blowout win was a bit surprising when you consider the game's early moments which saw Philadelphia open the game with a 7-2 run.

Throughout those early possessions, the Celtics were seemingly a step slow in getting free for shots, as well as their defensive rotations.

But the steadying force during those struggles, Garnett, continued to remind us all that there's still good basketball - a lot of good basketball - in those soon-to-be-36 year old bones of his.

However, Garnett soon found himself battling something much tougher than the Sixers defense - foul trouble.

He picked up two in the first quarter, which ended with the Celtics behind 33-28.

Garnett's departure might have been a blessing in the disguise for Boston.

It forced them to run more of their offense through Pierce.

Pierce, still dealing with a sprained medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee, appeared to have found that much-needed bounce with back-to-back emphatic dunks followed by a pair of primal yells for good measure.

His play, along with Rondo's scoring, was instrumental in the Celtics being within striking distance going into the second quarter.

Facing a five-point deficit to start the second, Garnett immediately made up for lost time with the first of many baskets.

It didn't' take long before Garnett was joined by Rondo. And Brandon Bass. And Keyon Dooling. And Mickael Pietrus. And

Yeah, it was becoming that kind of game for the C's, courtesy of their small ball lineup that Celtics coach Doc Rivers normally waits until the fourth quarter to use.

But in the first, the C's had a stretch in which their lineup included Rondo, Ray Allen, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce and Greg Stiemsma.

The Celtics thrived with a similar small ball unit in the second quarter that included Garnett who was trending towards a double-double (17 points, nine rebounds) by halftime.

Boston pulled ahead by as many as 13 points (56-43) in the second, but soon saw its lead down to just seven after a 3-point play by Lou Williams and a 3-pointer by Andre Iguodala.

The C's had played too well for too long to go into the half without a double digit lead. Boston took a 60-49 lead into the half following a pair of free throws by Rondo and a driving lay-up.

Boston had a chance to make the lead even bigger when Pierce stole the ball and launched a desperation, off-balance shot that was on line with the basket but came up short as time expired.

It didn't matter, though.

Because the half ended with the Celtics ahead comfortably, setting the stage for them to walk off the floor accomplishing the only thing they wanted all along - a victory.

Avery Bradley hopes to take next step on D: Defensive Player of the Year

Avery Bradley hopes to take next step on D: Defensive Player of the Year

WALTHAM, Mass. – Prior to Friday night’s Green and White Scrimmage, Celtics coach Brad Stevens made a point of having Avery Bradley honored for being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team.
 
It was a good feeling and an award that Bradley is extremely proud of accomplishing.
 
But he wants more.
 
First-team All-Defense is nice.
 
Defensive Player of the Year?
 
Even better.
 
Prior to Saturday’s practice, Bradley’s case for being in contention for such a lofty award stems from him consistently being among the better perimeter defenders in the NBA.
 
On most game nights, Bradley is usually assigned whichever guard is the more potent scorer.
 
And in that role, Bradley has been able to establish himself as one of the toughest matchups players will face from a defender, all season.

But as good as Bradley may be as an individual defender, he knows any praise or accolades for what he does has to come with the knowledge that his teammates have also elevated their play defensively, too.
 
“Like I said, it’s hand-in-hand with how you play as an individual and your team success,” Bradley said. “How far we can go this year, hopefully I can show and the rest of my teammates can show how good we are on defense.”
 
One of the reasons Bradley was able to garner enough votes to be named to the league’s First-team defense, is due to the ringing endorsements he received from various players throughout the league.
 
Two of Bradley’s biggest supporters are Portland’s explosive backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

After Boston’s 116-109 loss at Portland on March 31, McCollum tweeted out that Avery Bradley was “the best perimeter defender in the league” and added, “I don’t think it’s close.”
 
In Boston’s loss to Portland, Lillard had 14 points on 3-for-16 shooting while McCollum had 17 points on 8-for-19 shooting.
 
“Hopefully the entire NBA can believe that I’m one of the best defenders,” Bradley said.
 
 

Young one of the 'tough decisions' facing Celtics

Young one of the 'tough decisions' facing Celtics

BOSTON – Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge have conversations all the time on a wide range of topics which includes but is certainly not limited to, the Celtics players.
 
On Saturday morning the two were discussing James Young, one of the players whose future with the Green team is anything but a certainty at this point.
 
Part of the challenge in evaluating Young is that unlike most first-round picks, getting on the floor to play – big minutes in the D-League don’t count – has not been easy.
 
“He hasn’t gotten a chance to play as much as other guys and that’s hard,” Stevens said prior to Saturday’s practice.  “We see the progress here, we see the growth here. We’ll just keep chipping away.”
 
Young, drafted with the 17th overall pick in 2014, has appeared in 60 games while averaging 2.2 points, 1.1 rebounds while shooting 34.1 percent from the field and 25 percent on 3s in 8.9 minutes per game.
 
Of the 13 players drafted after Young in the first round of 2014 draft, seven have appeared in more games with nine having a higher minutes played per game average.  
 
But here’s where Young’s situation sets himself apart from the others. Five of the seven players drafted after him who have appeared in more games have never seen action in the postseason  compared to Young, who has played for nothing but playoff teams in Boston.
 
That distinction speaks volumes as to why the Celtics will be hard-pressed to make the right call when it comes to deciding Young’s fate.

“We’ve got some tough decisions at the end of the month,” Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, told Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn at the Celtics' Green and White scrimmage, which was livestreamed on CSNNE.com. “We have about five guys fighting for two spots.”
 
Young is well aware of the precarious position he’s in at camp.
 
“I haven’t been thinking much about it,” he told CSNNE.com. “I know the system very well. It’s just about playing basketball. That’s the main thing; just try to contribute.”

To Young’s credit, he did a lot of nice things on Friday that didn’t show up in the final stats but were instrumental in him being a positive contributor while on the floor. There were the deflected passes which slowed the White team down from getting into their offense quickly. He had a steal, attacked the paint and made the right pass in one sequence which led to another good pass and then a lay-up for a teammate aka the “hockey assist.” And defensively, he was solid throughout his time on the floor.
 
Said Young: “I’m just playing for the team and be myself and not let things weigh on my head; just go out and play basketball, do what I need to.”
 
In doing so, Young would create more than just a spot on the roster for himself but potentially a role off the bench.
 
And doing that would lead Ainge and Stevens into having a very different kind of conversation when it comes to Young.