Sixers' Collins elects to keep struggling Brand as starter

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Sixers' Collins elects to keep struggling Brand as starter

PHILADELPHIA Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins acknowledges Lavoy Allen has done as good a job as any of his players on defending Kevin Garnett.

But Collins was emphatic that he will not consider replacing a struggling Elton Brand in the starting lineup, with Allen.

"We'd like to have him (Lavoy) on Kevin Garnett," Collins said. "But we're not going to take Elton Brand out of the starting lineup."

More than anything else, loyalty appears to be the driving force behind Collins' decision to remain status quo with his starting lineup despite mounting evidence that an Allen-Brand swap might prove beneficial to the Sixers.

Brand is averaging 6.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in the playoffs. In this series against Boston, Brand's numbers have dipped to 4.7 points and three rebounds per game. Even more telling has been the fact that the Sixers are minus-27 when Brand is on the floor in this series.

Allen's numbers are comparable (6.3 points, 4.8 rebounds) for the playoffs. But there's a noticeable difference in his impact in this second-round series compared to his teammate.

Against the Celtics, Allen is averaging 8.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. In addition, he has defended Garnett better than any other Philadelphia big man.

That said, Collins made it abundantly clear that he planned to stick with Brand as his starting power forward.

"I just think EB deserves to start," Collins said. "He's one of our proudest players; I admire and respect him to the ultimate. I'm not going to come in here in a game like tonight and not having him in our starting lineup. I have too much respect for this game and him and what he's done for this team, for what he's done for this organization. He was a much-maligned player here for a couple years for his contract and his injuries. And I'm going to give him every chance to be successful."

However, Collins wouldn't rule out turning to the bench - most likely, Allen - early if he felt it was needed.

"I might have to sub early, but I'm going to give him every chance to go out and play, absolutely," Collins said. "That's who I am."

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.