OFFSEASON

Garnett comes back down to earth in loss to Sixers

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Garnett comes back down to earth in loss to Sixers

PHILADELPHIA Kevin Garnett once again had a major impact on the game but not the kind of impact he's used to.

The Boston Celtics' most dominant player in this series, Garnett, was nothing of the sort Friday night - a first for him in this series.

And the end result was a 92-93 loss to Philadelphia that now puts this best-of-seven series at 2-2, with Game 5 in Boston on Monday and Game 6 in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Garnett had just nine points, his lowest-scoring game in this series. And he did it on 3-for-12 shooting (25 percent) which equalled his worst field goal percentage in a playoff game in which he took 12 or more field goal attempts. He came into the game having shot 63.3 percent in this series.

It was an inexplicable performance which in many ways, summed up what kind of night it was for the Celtics as a whole.

When asked about why Garnett never really got into the offense, C's coach Doc Rivers said, "I don't know. I'm going to have to go look at that and figure that myself."

Said Garnett: "They tended to be a little bit more aggressive, and they were getting the whistle."

The Sixers were whistled for 18 personal fouls compared to the Celtics being called for 28 personal fouls. That led to a huge discrepancy in free throws, with the C's shooting 16-for-19 from the line compared to the Sixers who were 25-for 36.

Still, Philadelphia's aggressive play only told part of the tale as to why Garnett's impact was so minimal.

The Celtics relied on their jump-shots far too often in the second half.

"We're a jump-shooting team," said Rajon Rondo who had 15 points and 15 assists. "We made those shots in the first half. We made those shots in Game 3. But (in Game 4), like I said, they sped us up a little bit. We may have lost our composure, but we're a veteran team. We're better than that, but we didn't respond well."

Said Rivers: "I never thought we established him. I thought he was a passer tonight. We have to get him back in the middle of the paint and being more aggressive. That's on us; we have to figure that out again."

At this stage of the playoffs, there's not going to be a major overhaul by the Celtics or anything like that in order to get Garnett back on track.

Garnett, in succinct Garnett-fashion, was asked about Game 5 and what he's looking forward to heading into that game.

"Making adjustments," he said. "And getting better."

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics make qualifying offers to Zeller, Sullinger

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Report: Celtics make qualifying offers to Zeller, Sullinger

All the free-agent focus on the Celtics has been on players -- Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard -- who they might bring in. But they have players they might lose, too.

One, of course, is Evan Turner, who's an unrestricted free agent, free to sign to anyone after July 1. But they also have two others, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, who could have joined Turner on the completely open market if they didn't tender them qualifying offers.

Yesterday, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, they did just that:

Zeller and Sullinger are still free to solicit offers. But, because they made the qualifying offers, the Celtics have the right to match any deal the two might receive and keep them in Boston.

OFFSEASON

Blakely: Boston becoming a favored destination for free agents

Blakely: Boston becoming a favored destination for free agents

BOSTON -- In some circles the pursuit of Dwight Howard by the Boston Celtics is just as perplexing as Boston being one of the six teams getting an audience with Kevin Durant and, with that, a shot at the Durant sweepstakes this summer. 
 
Both serve as examples of how the Celts are no longer at the back of the line when it comes to being a potential destination for the best free agents. 
 
Of course it’s about sealing the deal, and getting the best free agents on the market under contract, and all that good stuff.
 
But before that can happen, Boston has to be seen as a place to even be seriously considered by free agents. That's exactly what we’re starting to see happen right now.
 
It’s easy to point to the Celtics having a ton of salary cap space, which in itself makes them a possible landing spot for players who we all know will be hauling in max to near-max salaries this offseason.
 
But there’s just one problem with that line of thought. More than half the league enters free agency with enough money to sign one max player.

The fact that Boston is on the short list for the summer’s top free agent (Durant) and have already secured a sit-down with one of the top centers (Howard) says a lot in terms of how far Boston has come in the eyes of players. 
 
And several factors point towards the Celtics getting an audience with other top-shelf free agents this summer if they fail to secure one or two of their top choices.
 
But let’s not kid ourselves. How others view this franchise is the reality of what the Celtics have to deal with when it comes to adding elite, upper-echelon talent like Durant. 
 
The fact that Durant is willing to include Boston in his short-list of teams is a bit of a head-scratcher when you see that the Celtics are the farthest away from the group in terms of competing for an NBA title (although an argument can be made that they are neck-and-neck with the Miami Heat along those lines). Durant has said in the past that would be something he would be looking for in whatever team he signed with.
 
The biggest selling point the Celtics have to offer Durant or any other free agent (besides money) is that they are a franchise on the rise, they have stability on the floor with Brad Stevens as the head coach, and they have stability in the front office with Danny Ainge. Both Stevens and Ainge signed long-term extensions earlier this month. 
 
And one of the perks that players who come to Boston quickly discover is the fan base, which is about as rabid a group as you'll find in the NBA.
 
There’s no mistaking they wear their emotions on their sleeves, whether it’s cheering the team on following a season-ending playoff loss, or booing the owner after the team makes a draft pick they don’t particularly care for. 
 
They bleed green!
 
Add all those things up and it’s clear that Boston has the kind of environment, the kind of culture, where a star can come and thrive. 
 
The Celtics and their fans have known this for a while.
 
Now it seems some of the game’s best players are starting to catch on, as well.