Celtics allow nightmarish late-game rally in 105-99 loss to 76ers

Celtics allow nightmarish late-game rally in 105-99 loss to 76ers

There were a number of stretches against Philadelphia that had to have felt like a bad dream for the Boston Celtics. 

And in the game’s closing moments, the Celtics found themselves squarely in what would be a nightmarish ending as the Sixers managed to squeak out a 105-99 win. Boston had several opportunities in the closing seconds to make it a one-possession game, but one 3-pointer after another rattled off the back, front and side of the rim as time expired. 

With the loss, Boston (44-26) had its three-game winning streak snapped along with its winning streak over Philadelphia which stood at 10 in a row. 

After leading by as many as 13 points, the Celtics found themselves clinging to a lead that would eventually escape their grasp which put them in catch-up mode through a good chunk of the fourth. But with 4:55 to play, Jae Crowder made a pair of free throws to tie the game at 91. Following Crowder’s free throws, Marcus Smart drew a charge against Robert Covington. 

The Celtics couldn’t take advantage of a good offense-good defense sequence, and soon found themselves back playing from behind following a 3-pointer by Robert Covington.

A lay-up by Amir Johnson made it a one-point game only for Philadelphia’s Dario Saric converting a lay-up in traffic. A lay-up by Smart was followed by a T.J. McConnell jumper that put the Celtics down by three with about two minutes to play. 

Saric scored on a drive to the basket that put the Sixers ahead 100-95 with less than a minute to play that would ultimately prove to be too much for the Celtics to overcome. Saric, who finished with 23 points and five rebounds for Philadelphia (26-43), was indeed the difference-maker for the Sixers down the stretch.

But for most of the game, it was Al Horford who had the hot hand. The 6-foot-10 big man had 27 points – the most he has had as a Celtic – couldn’t duplicate the dominance he displayed through the first three quarters, down the stretch. He also had eight rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots.

And as the Celtics offense struggled to make plays down the stretch, it served as a painful reminder of just how lost this team is in the closing moments of games without Isaiah Thomas. Not only is Thomas the team’s top scorer, but he also leads the NBA in fourth quarter scoring this season. 

While there were a number of Celtics who picked up some of the slack in Thomas’ absence, no one could deliver in the fourth the way Thomas has for most of this season. 

As for the Sixers, Saric was just one of several players whose play was instrumental in Philly getting the win. In addition to his big game, Covington had 16 points and eight rebounds whose play added to a nightmarish game for the Celtics who failed to gain ground on East-leading Cleveland with the loss.

Stars, studs and duds: Another brilliant performance by Thomas

Stars, studs and duds: Another brilliant performance by Thomas

CHICAGO –  Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 104-95 Game 4 win over Chicago.
 
 
STARS
 
Isaiah Thomas

It was yet another brilliant performance by Thomas who has established himself as the most impactful performer in this series. He led the Celtics with 33 points on 10-for-21 shooting with seven assists.
 
Jimmy Butler

He matched Isaiah Thomas in terms of points, but didn’t get nearly as much help from those around him. Butler’s 33 points primarily came from the free throw line where he was 19-for-23. The 23 attempts ranks third all-time among Celtics playoff opponents from the line.
 
 
STUDS
 
Gerald Green

His scoring at the start of the game really set the tone for Boston. He finished with 18 points, 16 of which came in the first half.
 
Al Horford

For the second straight game, Horford was a decisive winner in the battle at center with Robin Lopez. He had a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds to go with four assists and a blocked shot.
 
Kelly Olynyk

He didn’t play major minutes, but certainly was an important key in Boston getting the victory. He made all four of his shots from the field, finishing with 10 points to go with three rebounds and a blocked shot.
 

DUDS
 
Chicago’s point guards

Jerian Grant was an absolute disaster as a starter, missing all three of his shot attempts in less than five minutes of action. His backup, Michael Carter-Williams, wasn’t much better, either. Isaiah Canaan (13 points) was their best option and should be the starter for them in Game 5.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart: 'He's a great actor, acting tough'

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart: 'He's a great actor, acting tough'

Jimmy Butler ripped Marcus Smart after Smart got in Butler's face during Game 4.

"As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he's a great actor," Butler said. "Acting tough, that's what he does. But I don't think he's about that, and I just don't think -- I'm the wrong guy to get in my face. He needs to take it somewhere else, because I'm not the one for that."

The two players confronted each other during the first half. They exhanged shoves before quickly getting separated by referees. The officials kept the dustup from escalating despite more Celtics and Bulls players getting into the mix.

Butler, who finished the game with 33 points, said he has no interest in getting into it with Smart again.

"That's the first time. The last time, too," Butler said. "We're not going to sit here and get in each other's faces. I'm not about that life, so he's calming down."