Celtics-Sixers review: What we saw

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Celtics-Sixers review: What we saw

BOSTON Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked about wanting to have assistant coach Tyronn Lue speak with the media following Wednesday's 103-71 crushing at the hands of Philadelphia.

"Because I have nothing to say," Rivers said.

Indeed, the play of his team spoke volumes about how they looked both mentally and physically fatigued while facing a team that was not only more athletic, but well-rested and desperate for a win after dropping eight of their last 10 games.

And while the story line for most will certainly be how the Celtics were simply a victim of the schedule, Rivers went out of his way to make sure that folks knew that the better team on this day was Philadelphia.

"We just didn't have it," Rivers said. "Philly played terrific. I thought they played hard; they had great energy. We were really sloppy."

Philadelphia did several things well to earn the victory. We highlighted some factors that might contribute to the game's outcome. Here we'll review them and see just how big a deal they turned out to be.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: When you throw in the fact that the Celtics have played back-to-back overtime games, and the fact that the Sixers have a younger, more athletic team, it goes without saying that Philadelphia will try and get out and run as much as possible. Truthfully, strong transition play has been a staple of the Sixers all season. They come into tonight's game ranked 8th in the NBA in fast-break points, with 15.2 per game. Meanwhile, there are few teams -- three, actually -- who do a better job at limiting fast-break points than the C's. The 10.9 points that opponents are scoring against them in fast-break points, is the fourth-lowest average in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Philadelphia did exactly what they wanted to do in terms of establishing their transition game. Their ability to dominate the boards (they were plus-19 for the game) allowed them to get out and attack a Celtics defense that was sluggish most of the night. And the result? A a decisive 26-10 advantage for Philadelphia in fast-break points.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Andre Iguodala: The two all-star wings have both been instrumental to their respective teams being where they are right now. Boston has won five in a row with contributions coming from many. But there's no mistaking the impact made by Pierce, who has had 30 or more points in the last two games by the C's. As for Iguodala, he doesn't score nearly as much as Pierce does, but his ability to defend, rebound and make an impact with his effort and hustle, will make him a tough cover for Pierce and the Celtics.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce may have won the scoring duel (16 to 10, actually), but there was no mistaking that Iguodala had the greater impact on the game's outcome. In addition to scoring 10 points, Iguodala also had a team-high eight assists and seven rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: We have seen the really good (18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists in win over New York) and the really average (nine points, 12 assists in win over Houston) from Rajon Rondo this year. Philadelphia is a big game for the Celtics. And as unpredictable as Rondo can be at times, the one thing that he's pretty steady with is his approach to big games. He has 17 triple-doubles in his career, 14 of which have come during a nationally televised.

WHAT WE SAW: This was not a nationally televised game, so you had a feeling that Rondo wouldn't have a great night. Like just about every other Celtics player to see action, Rondo never got into any kind of flow or rhythm as a scorer or a passer. He had five points on 2-for-6 shooting from the field. Normally one of the Celtic's better rebounders, he had just one. And as far as assists go, Rondo had eight which isn't bad for most -- but clearly a sub-par performance for him. Rondo admits that he and the rest of the C's simply didn't have "it" on Wednesday.

"It was a losing effort as a team," Rondo said. "We're not proud of it. You win some, you lose some. You win as a team, you lose as a team."

STAT TO TRACK: The Celtics will have to find a way to rattle a Philadelphia team that does a great job of taking care of the ball. They turn the ball over just 10.6 times per game, the fewest turnovers committed in the NBA. Although Boston is middle-of-the-pack in terms of turnovers forced this season (15.3, which ranks12th in the NBA), they have forced each of their last three opponents to turn the ball over 20 or more times.

WHAT WE SAW: As usual, the Sixers did an excellent job of taking care of the ball, and allowing the Celtics few opportunities to capitalize on their mistakes. Philadelphia turned the ball over just nine times which led to 11 points for the Celtics.

Buckets' Bracketology: The NCAA Tournament begins to take on a local flavor

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Buckets' Bracketology: The NCAA Tournament begins to take on a local flavor

Each Monday through the Final Four, our own Robbie Buckets -- known in some circles as Rob Snyder, associate producer at Comcast SportsNet -- will take a look at the world of college basketball. From now until Selection Sunday, he'll be picking brackets heading into the tournament:

EAST
1. Villanova
16. NC Central/Mt. Saint Mary’s

8. Dayton
9. Virginia Tech

5. Cincinnati
12. Middle Tennessee

4. Purdue
13. Valparaiso

6. Notre Dame
11. Marquette/TCU

3. Kentucky
14. Akron

7. Minnesota
10. Kansas State

2. Louisville
15. Furman

SOUTH
1. North Carolina
16. Sam Houston State

8. VCU
9. Iowa State

5. Creighton
12. Nevada

4. UCLA
13. Belmont

6. Maryland
11. Syracuse/Providence

3. Florida
14. Princeton

7. South Carolina
10. USC

2. Oregon
15. North Dakota State

MIDWEST
1. Kansas
16. Texas Southern

8. Wichita State
9. Miami

5. Wisconsin
12. Vermont

4. Butler
13. Monmouth

6. Saint Mary’s
11. California

3. Florida State
14. UNC-Asheville

7. Oklahoma State
10. Michigan

2. Duke
15. Florida Gulf Coast

WEST
1. Gonzaga
16. UC-Davis/North Dakota

8. Northwestern
9. Arkansas

5. Virginia
12. UNC-Wilmington

4. West Virginia
13. Bucknell

6. SMU
11. Michigan State

3. Arizona
14. Arkansas State

7. Xavier
10. Clemson

2. Baylor
15. Cal-Bakersfield

LAST 4 IN:
Syracuse
TCU
Marquette
Providence

FIRST 4 OUT:
Seton Hall
Georgia Tech
Illinois State
Wake Forest

NEXT 4 OUT:
Tennessee
Pittsburgh
Indiana
Georgetown

Follow me on Twitter @RobbieBuckets for college hoops musings and off-the-cuff sports takes.

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

NEW ORLEANS -- There will be a significant faction of Celtics Nation who will see DeMarcus Cousins’ trade to New Orleans as a lost opportunity for the C's, who could have offered a much more enticing trade package than the one the Sacramento Kings accepted.
 
The Kings received nothing even remotely close to a king’s ransom for Cousins, acquiring him in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, journeyman Langston Galloway and ex-Pelican Tyreke Evans (who has never been the same since his Rookie of the Year season in 2010), along with a protected first-round pick and a future second-round selection.

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While the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on why Boston decided to not pursue a trade for Cousins, more important is what the non-decision means for the moment and going forward.
 
Think about what the Celtics have done in the last three-plus seasons.
 
They went from being a lottery team to one that has the second-best record in the East. They're holding the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft; at worst, the pick will be in the top four or five. They have three of the most team-friendly contracts (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) in the NBA. They have promising prospects overseas as well as in the D-League. And they're led by a coach who has improved his coaching acumen -- and the team’s win total -- every year he's been on the job.
 
And it's all enveloped by a culture with a high level of selflessness, which has created a locker-room environment that has been more about fighting for each other than fighting one another or others off the court.
 
Do you really think Cousins’ talent would have trumped the baggage he'd be bringing to the Celtics if they'd acquired him?
 
For him to have fit in with this team would have required him to make the kind of changes that, frankly, I just don’t see him being capable of making at this point.
 
On more than one occasion, “not fitting in” with the Celtics culture was given to me as the reason why a Cousins-to-Boston trade never gained any traction with the team’s brass. Or coaching staff, for that matter.
 
While there's no denying that he's arguably the best center in the NBA, Cousins is a high-risk, high-reward talent that makes sense to pursue if you're a franchise which has nothing to lose by adding him to the mix. Like, say, New Orleans.
 
The Pelicans are 11th in the Western Conference despite having Anthony Davis, who has been asked to carry the weight of a franchise that has yet to figure out the best combination of talent to surround him with and find success.
 
The addition of Cousins not only provides Davis some major help, but serves as a reminder of just how desperate the Pelicans are.
 
While there are mixed reports on whether the package of assets the Kings agreed to was the best they could have received for Cousins, there was no way they were going to get anything close to comparable talent in exchange for him.
 
And that was solely due to the risk that any team was willing to take on in order to acquire him.
 
At some point, the Celtics need to take advantage of an opportunity to go all-in for a superstar player. But this was not that time, or that player.