Celtics keep rolling, blow out Sixers, 103-79

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Celtics keep rolling, blow out Sixers, 103-79

BOSTON Sunday's game wasn't a must-win for the Boston Celtics.

But you wouldn't know it by the way they approached the game, easily defeating Philadelphia 103-79 on Sunday.

With the win, Boston (32-24) now has a three-game lead in the Atlantic Division on the slumping Sixers (29-27).

After a relatively close first quarter, Boston began to pull away in the second and led, 50-36, at the half.

The third quarter has usually been a good one for Philadelphia, which came into Sunday's game giving up an NBA-low 20.7 points per game.

Needless to say, that number will take a bit of a spike after the C's lit the Sixers up for 34, third-quarter points to take an 84-63 lead into the fourth.

At a time when teams are trying to balance staying healthy with winning games, the C's are managing to do both just fine.

Because of the blowout nature of the game on Sunday which came after a strong performance by the C's bench the previous night in Indiana, a number of key Celtics got more in-game rest than usual.

However, the Sixers made a bit of a mini-run in the fourth to cut Boston's lead to 86-70 which is when head coach Doc Rivers brought Kevin Garnett back in the game.

Garnett, who has missed a number of shots he normally makes lately, was among the Celtics playing good basketball on Sunday.

He finished with 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting. Boston got another strong game from Paul Pierce (17 points, five rebounds) and a good bounce-back showing by Brandon Bass.

After scoring just two points while missing all of his shots from the field at Indiana on Saturday, Bass had 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting against the Sixers.

And last but certainly not least, was Rajon Rondo.

The 6-1 playmaker continues to play at an exceptional level as he finished with seven points along with 15 assists.

To put Rondo's night in perspective, he had nine assists in the third quarter alone which nearly doubled the number of assists (5) of the Sixers in that quarter.

But in 2011-2012 Celtics fashion, they allowed Philadelphia to make the game mildly interesting in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers trailed by 14 and had a chance to cut into the C's lead even further. But Evan Turner, who had a career-high 26 points against Boston earlier this season, turned the ball over.

Moments later, Sasha Pavlovic drained a 3-pointer to put the Celtics up by 17. Another Sixers turnover followed, which led to a breakaway attempt by Avery Bradley who was fouled on the play.

There was still another six minutes of basketball to play, but it was clear that Philadelphia could not muster up enough plays to come back and make the game close. And the Celtics were clearly in no mood to allow this game to become even mildly interesting.

And the seal-the-deal moment that this was over?

The appearance of Gino on the JumboTron with 2:28 to play and the C's up 96-76.

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here . . . or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of  'The Other Guys' who might interest the Celtics: TODAY: Dallas' Nerlens Noel.

BOSTON -- When the Celtics had trade talks with Philadelphia last season, it was no secret they had their eyes set on Nerlens Noel.
 
The 23-year-old has shown tremendous potential as an elite, rim-protecting big man.

THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS


The Dallas Mavericks saw those same qualities, which is why they engineered a trade for him last season despite knowing he would be a restricted free agent this summer.
 
And while he would certainly be the kind of player Boston would absolutely love to add to the mix, seeing the Mavericks go in a different direction seems highly unlikely.
 
But until he signs with the Mavericks or any other team, the Celtics can’t be totally discounted as a possibility if they strike out on Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.
 
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE . . .
 
His proven body of work and his potential. Noel has shown flashes of being a decent player offensively, but he’s going to get paid handsomely this summer because of his defense and rebounding.
 
According to Basketball-reference.com, Noel has been among the NBA’s top 10 in defensive box plus/minus two of his three NBA seasons.
 
During the 2014-15 season, his defensive plus/minus was +4.5 (fourth in the NBA) and the following season it was +3.4 (eighth in the NBA).
 
And while his upside is viewed primarily through a defensive prism, his presence on the floor seemed to provide a much-needed jolt to the Mavericks offensively.
 
In his 22 games with Dallas, he averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds with a solid offensive rating of 106.1.
 
NOT CRAZY ABOUT . . .
 
You love Noel’s length and athleticism, but you wish he would add some weight to withstand the physical rigors of playing primarily in the post. In an ideal world, Noel will add another 10-15 pounds, which would put him weight-wise similar to another standout Maverick from a few years back, Tyson Chandler. But Noel’s narrow shoulders and pogo-stick thick legs will likely result in his current 228-pound frame not changing much in the near future. He will still be a factor defensively, but there will be nights when stronger, more physical centers will give him problems. Fortunately for him and the Mavericks, big men whose strength is well, their strength, are becoming scarce in this new age of position-less basketball in the NBA.
 
IN CONCLUSION . . .
 
Noel would look really good in a Celtics uniform, but there’s little to no chance the Mavericks allow him to get away. They've made it clear that re-signing the 6-foot-11 big man is their top priority. And short of Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry saying they want to become a Maverick, it’s highly unlikely Dallas will change course.
 
PRICE TAG
 
Four-year, $106.4 million. That’s the most a team outside of Dallas can offer the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Noel knows the Mavericks won’t hesitate to offer him a max contract, which would give him more guaranteed years (five), better raises (eight percent versus five percent) and a total package of $143.55 million, which is more than $37 million beyond what other teams like the Celtics can offer.
 
Again, something would have to go unexpectedly wrong for Noel to wind up on any roster other than the Mavericks.

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

The Bruins have locked up a potential fourth-line piece for next season at a bargain basement price.

The B's signed Rhode Island native and Providence College alum Noel Acciari, a restricted free agent, to a two-year deal worth $1.45 million, a contract that breaks down to a very affordable $725,000 cap hit for each of the next two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound bowling ball of a forward finished with two goals and five points in 29 games for the Bruins last season, and has appeared in 48 games at the NHL level over the last two seasons in Boston. It was also encouraging that Acciari seemed to be tapping a bit more into his offense toward the end of the season, and was building some confidence for whatever modest offense he’ll end up bringing to the NHL table once he’s reached his potential ceiling as a player.

Clearly the two-year, one-way deal portends that Acciari, 25, will be counted on as a high energy, hard-hitting fourth-line player who does a good job of aggravating opponents while playing at full tilt. The real question is whether his body can hold up with his maximum effort style of playing, and whether he can avoid serious injuries with some of the car-crash level of violence he puts in his hitting.

Acciari has battled several different injuries over the last couple of seasons, but managed to be healthy enough to log time in the playoffs for both Boston and the P-Bruins.

Either way it’s a low-risk, affordable contract for the Bruins for a young player who, if healthy, will be a large piece on their fourth line as a diligent worker and excellent teammate. So that’s a good proactive signing for Don Sweeney as he continues to work on a more complicated contract for a higher profile player like David Pastrnak.