Rondo can't get self, Celtics going in Game 6

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Rondo can't get self, Celtics going in Game 6

PHILADELPHIA No matter how Rajon Rondo tried, he just could not find a hot hand (a luke warm one would have sufficed) to get the ball to for the Boston Celtics.

So when he tried to score on his own - and failed to do so repeatedly - it became clear that he too was in no flow or rhythm offensively.

And there lies the push-and-pull that Rondo - on most nights at least - seems to master.

But Game 6 wasn't Rondo's night - or the Celtics' night for that matter - as the C's drop a 82-75 Game 6 loss.

With Philadelphia's win, the Celtics and the Sixers will face off at the TD Garden on Saturday with the winner advancing to the Eastern Conference finals.

And Rondo's final line on Wednesday - nine points, six assists and nine rebounds - was the kind you expect to see from in at the half.

"I don't know" was C's coach Doc Rivers' response when asked about Rondo's very un-Rondo-like game.

"He wanted to play well," Rivers added. "He attacked early and missed some shots. He probably got caught in between himself because he saw the offense wasn't working."

Boston shot 33 percent from the field and turned the ball over 17 times (for 19 points).

You want to know what a recipe for defeat looks like?

Shooting that poorly and turning the ball over that many times, is a start.

And when you consider so much of Rondo's game is dependent on others making shots, it's not all that surprising that the Celtics All-Star's numbers weren't nearly as impressive as they usually are.

"We had a lot of empty possessions," Rivers said.

And while Rondo isn't responsible for all that is wrong with the Celtics offense, his play - maybe as much as anyone on the roster - can impact the game significantly.

While Boston had its problems getting stops down the stretch, they still held the Sixers to just 82 points and even won the battle on the boards, 48-37.

There was certainly room for the defense to have been better, but the C's biggest issue on Wednesday was their offense - or lack of it.

And right or wrong, that responsibility ultimately falls under the duties of Rondo who has been arguably the most consistent player in this series.

Boston was within striking distance most of the night, but you never got the feeling that they were in total control.

Part of that had to do with Rondo, who normally makes a major impact on the game.

That wasn't the case on Wednesday as the Sixers seemed to have finally found a way to cool off the one player they seemingly never had an answer for until Wednesday.

Rivers thinks Rondo's biggest problem was simply trying to find that balance between getting his teammates going offensively, and looking for his own points.

"I thought he was trying to orchestrate the offense and try to go, and he probably got caught in the middle tonight," Rivers said. "It happens, but he'll be better."

He has to be if the Celtics want to win Game 7 and with it, advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

"Win or go home. Confidence is very high," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "We've been here before; very experienced. All out. Nothing less."

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

BOSTON – Wednesday’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks was the fifth time in the last six games that Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley was out because of a right Achilles injury.

Well, it appears the 6-foot-2 guard may miss a few more with this injury.

“I can see him missing a little more time,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following Wednesday’s loss. “I just think maybe he came back a little bit too early, whatever the case may be.”

Bradley was expected to play against the Knicks, but was a last-minute scratch.

Celtics big man Al Horford said he didn’t find out Bradley was out until the team was on the floor doing pre-game warmups and he didn’t see him.

“He was really sore,” Stevens said of Bradley. “Went through our walk-through and then came on to the court and did some stuff and was more sore today than he has been. I think he did treatment the whole game.”

This latest setback for Bradley is part of a growing narrative that has dogged him throughout his career which has included him missing games to injury in each of his six-plus NBA seasons.

Bradley came into this season once again hoping to be as injury-free as possible, only to see that dream dashed with this right Achilles strain he's suffering with currently.

Still, there’s no downplaying the significance and value the Celtics have in the 26-year-old. This season, he is second on the Celtics in scoring at 17.7 points per game and leads them in rebounds with 6.9 per game with both being career highs. In addition, he averages just under 35 minutes per game which is also tops on the team.

Marcus Smart has been Stevens’ choice to replace Bradley in the starting lineup when Bradley has been unavailable, and that’s not likely to change between now and Saturday’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

BOSTON – With the night’s outcome all but a foregone conclusion, Al Horford’s last basket of the night got a sarcastic round of applause and a few jeers from the few fans that decided to stick it out for the final few seconds of Boston’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks.

Horford finished with a season-low five points for the Celtics (26-16).

Connecting on just 2-for-14 (or 14.3 percent) of his shots also represented the worst shooting night percentage-wise in Horford’s nine-plus NBA seasons.

“I struggled bad offensively,” said Horford who still managed to dish out a game-high 10 assists. “I tried to do anything I could to help us. It just wasn’t going for me.”

But as poorly as Horford shot the ball, he was more bothered by his defense and for that matter the Celtics’ team defense.

New York came into Wednesday’s game having lost 11 of its last 13 games and spent most of the night playing like a team that’s thirsty for a win.

They shot 50.5 percent from the floor, 40 percent on 3’s and dominated the glass 57-33 which helped fuel New York’s 24-12 advantage in second-chance points.

“We have to do a better job of holding teams to one shot,” Horford said. “That’s the first thing. I have to do a better job at protecting the rim. I know I can recall a couple instances where I needed to be there and I wasn’t impacting the ball as much as I would like to. I know I have to be better on the defensive end.”

Horford’s struggles on many levels mirrored the problems experienced by the rest of the Celtics.

“They punked us,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who led all scorers with 39 points. “They were the harder playing team on both ends of the floor. That was the definition of this game; they played harder than us.”

For most of the night, the New York Knicks were making all the big plays defensively and clutch shots offensively while the Celtics consistently failed to get that one defensive stop or knock down the one jumper that could have at least shifted the game’s momentum closer to being in their favor.

Boston rookie Jaylen Brown believes the Celtics didn’t take the struggling Knicks as seriously as they should have.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Brown who came off the bench to score 12 points for Boston (26-16). “It’s a game we should have won. We underestimated our opponent. We are a better team than that even though we played bad we still had a lot of opportunities to win the ball game.”

Horford had a different take on how things went down on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we overlooked them,” Horford said. “But I think we kind of … consciously or not, we felt we were going to win this game like, ‘We’ll struggle a little bit, but we’ll figure it out and win it.’ It didn’t work like that. In the fourth, we were right there. They made a couple shots. They deserved to win. They played better.”

And as the Celtics found themselves on multiple occasions having a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the fourth, it would have been fool’s good if they somehow managed to squeak out a win on Wednesday night.

“We didn’t deserve it,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder who had 21 points. “When you don’t deserve it, the basketball gods don’t bless you.”

But there’s plenty of season left to be played, and the Celtics – as we saw on Wednesday – have plenty of room for improvement.

Especially Horford, particularly when it comes to getting back on track shooting the ball.

“It was at the point where I didn’t have it,” he said. “That was tough. So I tried to impact the game in other ways whether it was setting screens or giving people shots, stuff like that. That was definitely tough for me because they were good looks. They just didn’t go in.”