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

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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."

Celtics aren't asking Al Horford to be 'anything more' than what he is

Celtics aren't asking Al Horford to be 'anything more' than what he is

WALTHAM -- From one media station to the next, Al Horford effortlessly moved about during Boston Celtics Media Day.
 
In between stations, I jokingly asked the nine-year veteran, "Been through a few of these before?"
 
"A couple," he quipped.
 
But Monday was different. And every other Monday going forward this season will be different, too, for the longtime Atlanta Hawks forward, who is now a member of the Boston Celtics after they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract this summer.
 
With that significant increase in salary comes -- from those outside the Celtics program at least -- a higher level of expectations.
 
"We’re not asking Al to be anything more than him," said coach Brad Stevens.  "He’s a good fit for how we play on offense. He’s a good fit for how we play on defense. He’s a professional. He has a routine. He works hard at his craft. He’s a guy that guys can follow by example."
 
However, Horford joins a Celtics team that -- since the rebuild began in 2013 -- has yet to win 50 games in a single season or get past the first round of the playoffs.
 
And while it will certainly be a collective team effort for Boston to achieve those goals, make no mistake about it: Horford is expected to be the man leading the way.
 
"We need to start building good habits from Day One," Horford said.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, is a big fan of Horford’s character and versatility, which has been on display throughout his career.
 
"As much as anything he’s been very consistent over his career," Ainge said. "Shooting the ball, playing multiple positions. He’s a guy that fits in with our system with big guys handling the ball a lot."
 
Horford’s new teammate echoed similar sentiments about the four-time All-Star.
 
And when you listen to his new Celtics teammates talk about him and what he’ll bring to a roster that’s loaded with returnees, there are a couple of common themes that seem to develop.
 
"He brings leadership; hard work," said Avery Bradley.
 
Bradley had a chance to spend some time around Jeff Teague, one of Horford’s former teammates in Atlanta.
 
"He just told me I’m really going to enjoy having him on this team," Bradley said. "He’s going to open the floor for everybody. He’s a great player on the offensive end, defensive end. He knows how to play the game of basketball. To have him be a part of this team, I’m just happy about it."
 
So is Amir Johnson, who will likely start with Horford in the frontcourt for Boston.
 
Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man. With the addition of Horford, Johnson won’t be relied on as heavily to be Boston’s last line of defense, which makes his life easier and, more importantly, makes the Celtics a better team defensively.
 
"[Horford] has so many skills he can contribute to the game," Johnson said. "He can run the floor, block shots, shoot the 3-ball, which is big now. He can do it all. It’ll be a big piece to carry us over the top. We just have to put it all together."

Isaiah Thomas: 'I didn't think Boston would be this cool when I came'

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Isaiah Thomas: 'I didn't think Boston would be this cool when I came'

Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine sit-down with Celtics All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas to talk about the high expectations for the season, the addition of Al Horford, and getting married this offseason.

Also, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely talk about Thomas, including his very team friendly deal will ever become an issue.

Look for new podcast versions of our media day interviews in the coming days, plus videos and other content as the Celtics get ready for the season.