Celtics sloppy in loss to Sixers, 89-86

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Celtics sloppy in loss to Sixers, 89-86

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

PHILADELPHIA The Basketball Gods have a way of evening things out over the course of a season.

Remember all those games the Boston Celtics were winning that, truth be told, they probably shouldn't have?

Friday's game against Philadelphia had all the makings of another come-from-behind victory for the Celtics.

But down the stretch, the C's had ample opportunities to make big plays.

Instead of executing with precision on both ends, the C's simply fumbled and bumbled their way to a second straight loss, this time to the 76ers, 89-86.

Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala put the game away with a swooping lay-up with 12.5 seconds to play that gave the Sixers an 89-84 lead.

Kevin Garnett got a lay-up with 6.9 seconds to play.

But after the made-basket, the Celtics weren't able to intentionally foul a Sixers player to put them at the free throw line and get another possible possession.

You know it's one of those kind of nights when you can't even foul right.

When asked what happened down the stretch for Boston, Rajon Rondo was succint in his comments.

"Nothing happened," he said, followed by a brief pause. "That was the problem. We didn't get some calls, we took some bad shots, we turned the ball over."

Essentially, Boston (46-17) did everything that they usually force opponents to do in the closing minutes of a close game.

Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "Everybody kind of tried to do it by themselves, forced turnovers."

And the Sixers, to their credit, made the most of Boston's miscues.

Philadelphia head coach Doug Collins, one of the early favorites for the league's coach of the Year award, was pleased with his team's play.

Not surprisingly, he was particularly happy with the way they handled themselves in the game's closing moments.

"Our guys were so tough at the end," Collins said. "Boston is a championship-caliber team. We have been in three games with them like this, this season. The first two they won at the end. Tonight, we got defensive stops and did what we had to do to get a tough win."

In their first two meetings, both Celtics wins, Boston won by a total of just five points.

And with this loss, Boston (46-17) has now lost two in a row, while the Sixers (34-31) continue what has been one of the better turn-arounds in the NBA this season.

Philadelphia has 17 games remaining, but they've already won seven games more than they did all of last season.

"We definitely feel that we're a great ball club that can go out and be capable of beating anybody each and every night," said Elton Brand who had 14 points and five rebounds. "We proved that tonight."

And the Celtics proved that, while they are still the top team in the Eastern Conference, all the changes that they have been able to weather through, may be finally catching up to them.

"I'm not one to make excuses, but we're in transformation here," said Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who had 14 points, six rebounds and five assists. "It's not an easy thing. Whatever we gotta do, we gotta fix it. I'm sure we will."

One of Boston's biggest problems the last couple games has been their inability to start the game playing well.

Just like they did against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, the C's fell behind quickly.

The first quarter was relatively close until Philadelphia went on a 7-0 run to lead, 16-10.

Philadelphia increased its lead slightly more to eight points, but the Celtics, led by Nenad Krstic's scoring, were able to trim Philadelphia's lead down to 25-22 after the first quarter.

Krstic continues to put up strong offensive numbers for the Celtics, finishing with 16 points and 15 rebounds for his first double-double as a Celtic, and second of the season. The first came when he played for Oklahoma City and had 16 points and 11 rebounds against Orlando on Jan. 13.

Boston also got a strong game from Krstic's teammate in Oklahoma City, Jeff Green, who was also part of the trade that shipped out Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder.

Green came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points.

But numbers have little meaning for most of the Celtics.

They're more consumed by letters; specifically, W's which lately, have been hard to come by.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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.