Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics get sleepy start vs. 76ers

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics get sleepy start vs. 76ers

The Boston Celtics looked like a team that didn’t get their wake-up call this morning, seemingly sleep walking through long stretches in the first half in their early afternoon matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers.

But the Celtics rose to occasion in the second quarter as they put together a series of good plays at both ends of the floor to pull ahead for a 51-46 lead at the half. 

Boston fell behind by as many as eight points (33-25) in the second quarter, but reeled off seven straight points which included a 3-pointer by Gerald Green that cut Philly’s lead to 33-32.

The Celtics began to play more alert at both ends of the floor courtesy of an 11-0 run that put them ahead 36-33. 

Philadelphia’s Dario Saric broke the Celtics’ run with a lay-up that cut Boston’s lead to 36-35. 

But that didn’t do much to stop a Boston 20-5 surge that was capped off by a fade-away jumper by Avery Bradley that put Boston ahead 45-38 (Boston’s biggest lead of the game at this point) with 2:48 to play in the half. 

The Celtics remained ahead the rest of the half, although head coach Brad Stevens could not have been pleased with the Sixers’ last-second offensive rebound by Richaun Holmes that he converted into the final points of the quarter.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Sunday’s game against Philadelphia.

STARS

Al Horford: He was the Celtics’ most consistent performer, making his presence felt at both ends of the floor. At the half, he had 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting along with four rebounds and three assists.

Dario Saric: He has emerged as a front-runner for the NBA’s rookie of the year award, and the Celtics saw first-hand why. He led all players at the half with 14 points to go with four rebounds and an assist.

STUDS

Robert Covington: Like Horford, Covington didn’t waste any time getting on track offensively. He had 11 points and five rebounds.

Terry Rozier: He has been struggling with his shot of late, so he was more than due for a good game shooting the ball. He led all Celtics off the bench with 12 points, connecting on 4-for-6 shots to go with five rebounds.

Avery Bradley: The Celtics’ two-guard made the most of his opportunities to score in the first half. He had 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting with two rebounds and an assist.

Richaun Holmes: His rim protection and timely baskets around the rim were huge for the Sixers in the first half. He had six points on 3-for-4 shooting with three rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. 

DUDS

Jaylen Brown: He was better than we saw at Brooklyn on Friday night, but still looks to be a bit off his game. At the half, he had two points on 1-for-4 shooting.

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.”