Philadelphia beat Celtics in a very un-Sixer-like way


Philadelphia beat Celtics in a very un-Sixer-like way

BOSTON At this point in the season, NBA teams still with games to play may change their lineup, but their identity?

That's not going to happen.

Yet when you look through the carnage Philadelphia left behind in their 92-83 Game 4 win over Boston, it's clear that the Sixers beat the Celtics in a very un-Sixer-like way.

They pushed; they pulled; they played a brand of physical, aggressive basketball that bothered Boston - a lot.

Because of that, it only makes sense for the Celtics to expect more of the same in a pivotal Game 5 matchup on Monday.

Not only did Philadelphia's aggressive play disrupt the Celtics offense, but at the other end of the floor, Philadelphia maintained that same tough and rugged disposition and they were rewarded with a slew of trips to the free throw line.

For the game, the Sixers were 25-for-36 from the free throw line while the Celtics were 16-for-19.

"The free throw line tells the story to me," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Thirty-six free throw attempts to 19. That's tough to win in that way if you turn the ball over (17 times) against the 76ers. Everything we did was the prescription that you don't do, to beat them. Seventeen to five offensive rebounds, 17 turnovers, 36 free throws, you would have thought we were down the whole game if you looked at those numbers, yet we had the lead."

The player most affected by Philadelphia's tougher play, was the toughest cover for them in this series - Kevin Garnett.

He finished with just nine points, his first single-digit scoring effort in this series. Even more significant was he was just 3-for-12 shooting. And by connecting on just 25 percent of his shots, Garnett - who turned 36 today - tied his lowest shooting percentage in a playoff game.

Philadelphia made a point of making sure Garnett did not dominate them the way he has throughout this series. The move by Sixers coach Doug Collins to put rookie Lavoy Allen on Garnett for long stretches has paid off handsomely for them.

The Sixers defense got some unexpected help in limiting Garnett from the Celtics themselves.

C's coach Doc Rivers is quick to credit Philadelphia's defense for the job they did on Garnett, but he added, "we had a lot to do with it. We did more than settle; we just lost our composure. We stopped running our stuff. Whenever that happens, I always think that's on me. I think that there is something the coach can do to slow them down, to get them back in their sets, to get them back in their rhythm, and I couldn't do it. To me, I always think that's my fault."

Philadelphia's more physical style has this series knotted up at 2-2, which has provided a significant jolt of confidence to the Sixers.

"No matter what people say as far as it's not over until it's over, being down 3-1 is a total different mentality than being at 2-2," said Sixers forward Andre Iguodala. "It could swing either way, so it was pretty much a must-win for us. Our psyche is a little different, but we still have to stay humble. We're going to keep getting their best shot."

Especially considering the Celtics felt that Game 4 was indeed one in which they inexplicably gave away with a shoddy second-half performance.

While some of Boston's second half struggles were certainly self-inflicted, credit has to be given to the Sixers for ratcheting up their aggression, too.

"I guess those guys can be called the more aggressive team," said C's point guard Rajon Rondo. "But regardless, that shouldn't have affected how we played.

Rondo added, "we're a strong-minded team. We're a veteran team, and we know we kind of let (Game 4) slip away. They felt they let a couple slip away early. Regardless of how each team feels, you still have to go out there and play the game. So we'll be reedy come Game 5."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.