Stars, studs and duds: Al Horford scores season-high but disappears in 4th

Stars, studs and duds: Al Horford scores season-high but disappears in 4th

Not having Isaiah Thomas inevitably meant a lot more Al Horford offensively. 

And the 6-foot-10 big man didn’t disappoint, tallying 27 points – the most he has scored as a Celtic – through three quarters of play. 

But in the pivotal fourth quarter, Horford was a non-factor offensively in Boston’s 105-99 loss at Philadelphia. 

It seemed that the Celtics gravitated away from doing the things that helped them pull ahead by as many as 13 points, chief among them was playing almost exclusively through Horford who also had eight rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots along with his 27 points. 

Celtics guard Avery Bradley acknowledged that they should have made getting Horford the ball a bigger priority in the fourth, especially how well he had played through the first three quarters of the game.

 “It was like we were playing 1-on-1 basketball,” Bradley told reporters after the loss. “We weren’t sharing the basketball. We had a lot of guys who stepped up; we just stopped playing the right way. They came back, they started hitting shots. … we dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t get back.”

And while Horford is quick to credit opponents win or lose, he was asked about what happened in the fourth when he was scoreless despite having already scored 27 points. 

“I don’t think it was so much them,” Horford told reporters. “We probably got away from running some of the offensive stuff we ran earlier in the game. We just did some different looks. That’s how we lost.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. 

STARS

Al Horford: He was Mr. Do-It-All for the Celtics, tallying a season-high 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting with eight rebounds and six assists. 

Dario Saric: Lots of big plays down the stretch were made by Saric who is looking more and more like this year’s rookie of the year award winner. He had a team-high 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting with six rebounds and four assists.

STUDS

Robert Covington: Lots of big shots to start the game, with a few more in the end. He finished with 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting with eight rebounds and a blocked shot. 

Terry Rozier: He pushed the pace early and often, and finished with one of his better games this season. He had a double-double of 14 points on 4-for-12 shooting along with 10 rebounds. 

Sixers Bench: It seemed whoever they turned to, became a major problem at some point for the Celtics. They combined to score 49 points, but even more significant washow their backup bigs Richaun Holmes (11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots) and Shawn Long (eight points, three rebounds) made huge contributions at both ends of the floor.

DUDS

Celtics’ 3-point shooting: There were plenty of good looks for Boston, but we’ve seen how bad those looks are if Isaiah Thomas isn’t on the floor. After making at least 10 3’s in 26 straight games, Boston has failed to do so each of the last two games which just so happens to be games in which Isaiah Thomas (knee) did not play. Coincidence? Of course not. With or without Thomas, shooting 20.7 percent (6-for-29) isn’t going to be good enough to beat many teams.

Blakely: Celtics' success lies in balancing big-money deals with bargains

Blakely: Celtics' success lies in balancing big-money deals with bargains

BOSTON – When it comes to stockpiling talent, few in the NBA have done it better in the past couple of years than the Golden State Warriors, as evidenced by them winning two of the past three NBA championships.
 
In 2015, Andre Iguodala was the NBA Finals MVP but it was the play another reserve, Festus Ezeli, who in the third quarter of the decisive Game 6, scored eight of his 10 points and helped extend a two-point halftime edge into a 12-point lead going into the fourth in what eventually was an eight-point series-clinching victory.

MORE CELTICS

 We have seen the Cleveland Cavaliers make deep playoff runs led by their Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but the contributions of youngsters such as Matt Dellavedova (now in Milwaukee) also helped.
 
Indeed, often lost in the success of title-contending teams is how they manage to have enough max-salaried talent on the roster, while also augmenting the lineup with contributions from younger players or inexpensive veterans on team-friendly contracts.
 
Balancing the best of those two worlds is among the many reasons why the Celtics are considered a legit contender to get to the NBA Finals this season out of the East.
 
A lot has been made of the team’s signing of Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $127.8 million contract.

But what really makes the Celtics so special is how they have been able to add a max-salaried player each of the past two seasons (Al Horford and Hayward) at a time when the contributions of Isaiah Thomas ($6.26 million this year) and Jae Crowder ($6.8 million this season) are significant not only in terms of what they do on the floor but even more so in how little they make salary-wise relative to those contributions.
 
Boston getting the most out of talent playing on low-salary deals will be instrumental in their ability to build off the success of last season when the Celtics reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2012.
 
And while the Warriors have achieved this by adding veterans on the cheap (David West), Boston has been more traditional from the standpoint of getting as much bang as they can from players on their rookie deals.
 
Boston currently has 16 players with guaranteed contracts.
 
Of that total, nine (Marcus Smart; Terry Rozier; Jaylen Brown; Ante Zizic; Abdel Nader; Jayson Tatum; Semi Ojeleye; Daniel Theis and Guerschon Yabusele) are on their rookie contracts.
 
“You always need young guys,” Austin Ainge, the Celtics' director of player personnel, told CSNNE.com. “Your veteran guys make a lot of money and so you need some guys on rookie contracts to fill out your roster.”
 
This is especially true for teams that are in the hunt to win an NBA title.
 
Ainge recalled how the use of players on rookie deals was instrumental in Boston bringing home Banner 17 in 2008.
 
“We had [Rajon] Rondo and Kendrick Perkins and Leon Powe and Big Baby [Glen Davis] in 2008,” Ainge said. “You need guys like that. You look at the teams in the finals the past few years, they’ve got some young guys on lower money contracts contributing. That’s important.”