Celtics blow lead, collapse in Philadelphia, 92-83

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Celtics blow lead, collapse in Philadelphia, 92-83

PHILADELPHIA Fast starts, a futile finish.

It has been that way throughout this Boston-Philadelphia playoff series, and Game 4 was no exception.

After a red-hot start by Boston, the Celtics could not overcome a foul-plagued game that ended with a disappointing 92-83 loss.

The series is now tied at 2-2, with Game 5 in Boston on Monday, and Game 6 in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala drilled a 3-pointer with 36.9 seconds to play that put the Sixers ahead 88-83, and all but sealed the victory.

Boston immediately called a time-out, well aware that the odds of them pulling out a win at that point were slim, at best.

Out of the time-out, Ray Allen took a rushed 3-pointer that hit nothing but the outstretched arms of a Sixers big man waiting for the air ball to land in his hands.

Jodie Meeks went to the free throw line and made a pair with 32.2 seconds to play, making the game's outcome a mere formality.

Several factors contributed to the C's loss, but none loom as large as the high number of fouls that the C's were whistled for, with official Bill Kennedy making a number of those calls.

For the game, the Celtics were called for 28 personal fouls compared to 19 for the Sixers. That contributed to Philadelphia taking 36 free throw attempts compared to 19 for the C's.

The Sixers fell behind by as many as 18 points, but rallied to tie the game at 63 with more than 10 minutes to play following a driving lay-up by Thaddeus Young.

From there, it became a game that like the first two, was going to come down to which team did a better job of executing in the game's closing minutes.

Boston went up 79-76 following a pair of free throws from Kevin Garnett, only for Iguodala to hit a game-tying 3-pointer.

His basket was soon followed by a jumper from Rajon Rondo which gave the Celtics an 81-79 lead with 2:49 to play.

For most of the night, the Celtics seemed well on their way to a similar blowout akin to their 16-point Game 3 win on Wednesday night.

Boston pushed its lead up to 18 in the third quarter, but foul trouble was starting to become an issue for the C's as the Sixers continued to make a killin' from the free throw line.

After a free throw by Avery Bradley put the Celtics ahead 49-31, Philadelphia countered with an 8-1 spurt with half of their points coming from the free throw line.

Philadelphia's run and Boston's offensive rut seemingly had no end in sight until Paul Pierce snapped an 0-for-the-quarter shooting slump by the Celtics with a 3-pointer that pushed Boston's lead to 54-46 at the 5:05 mark.

The Celtics had missed their previous nine shot attempts in the quarter.

HOT SHOT: Andre Iguodala came up with one big shot after another for the Sixers, with none bigger than the 3-pointer he hit with 36 seconds to play that put the Sixers ahead by five points. He finished with 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting, along with seven rebounds and four assists.

IN-N-OUT: Kevin Garnett was about as big a non-factor as we've seen him all season. He finished with just nine points on 3-for-12 shooting from the field, along with 11 rebounds and a whopping seven turnovers.

SUPER SUB: Thaddeus Young continues to provide the kind of impact off the bench that has given the Celtics major fits throughout this series. He had 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting, along with nine rebounds and three assists.

TURNING POINT: With the Sixers ahead 85-83, Rajon Rondo missed a driving lay-up attempt that was blocked by Young. Moments later, Iguodala hit a 3-pointer that put the C's on their heels and they were never able to bounce back.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "We lost our composure. We never returned to playing basketball like we did in the first half." - Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.