Celtics-Sixers review: What we saw

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Celtics-Sixers review: What we saw

PHILADELPHIA For the second time this month, the Boston Celtics had a chance to beat Philadelphia and take over the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

And for the second time this month, they failed.

Philadelphia (27-21) used a strong third quarter surge to pull away for a 99-86 win over the C's.

Boston led 49-43 at the half, but soon saw its control - and the lead - disappear in the third.

Usually the third quarter has been a good one for the Celtics, especially for the C's defensively.

This season, Boston ranks No. 2 in fewest points allowed (21.7) in the third quarter, while averaging 24.1 which ranks 11th.

But in the third, the C's defense disappeared which allowed Philadelphia to score 37 points.

"When you give up 37 points in a quarter, regardless if it's the first, second, third or fourth, that team got going and it was hard to shut them off," said C's guard Rajon Rondo.

Indeed, Philadelphia's big third quarter was a major factor in the game's outcome. But there were other keys at play in determining the outcome. Here we'll review some identified prior to the game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - The Celtics came out playing very aggressive on offense against Milwaukee Thursday night, and they'll look to do more of the same against Philadelphia. The result was 35 points scored in the first quarter, a season-high for a Celtics team that averages 22.5 points in the first quarter which ranks 26th in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Sixers are about as good a team defensively as you'll find to start games. Teams are averaging just 22 points against the Sixers in the first quarter which ranks No. 2 in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston seemed well positioned for another strong night, as the C's came out surprisingly hot from the field. The end result was a 32-26 lead after the first, which included another big first quarter scoring from Paul Pierce. He scored 11 of his team-high 20 points in the first six minutes of the game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Ray Allen vs. Evan Turner: The second-year guardforward torched the Celtics for a career-high 26 points in the blowout win on March 7. But the 6-7 Turner has struggled recently, scoring a total of just 14 points in Philadelphia's last three games. As for Allen, the March 7 loss at Philadelphia was one of the worst games of his NBA career. He missed all five of his shots from the field, finishing with just two points. When you take that kind of game combined with Thursday night's 1-for-8 shooting performance against the Bucks, no one should be surprised if Allen has a big - BIG - night scoring tonight against the Sixers.

WHAT WE SAW: A left ankle injury kept Allen out of the lineup. And a head injury in the second quarter sidelined Allen's replacement, Mickael Pietrus. The 6-foot-6 swingman suffered a head injury with 5:08 to play in the first half after a hard landing after being fouled by Lou Williams. As for Turner, the C's did a much better job of not allowing him to get into a similar flow that he had earlier this month when he scored a career-high 26 points against the C's. On Friday, he had nine points on 3-for-9 shooting.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Like most of his teammates in the blowout loss earlier this month, Rajon Rondo will look to bounce back with a better performance. Rondo is putting together an incredibly strong stretch of play lately. Rondo has had at least a dozen assists in Boston's last five games which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a franchise record. Look for him to try and get out in transition as much as possible to put the Sixers defense on its heals.

WHAT WE SAW: Despite the Celtics' up and down ways of late, Rajon Rondo continues to remain a surprisingly steady force. On Friday, he had six points and 17 assists which extends his franchise record of games with 12 or more assists, to six. "It's really a credit to my teammates," Rondo said. "I'm passing them the ball, but at the end of the day they have to make the shots."

STAT TO TRACK: Balancing good ball movement with taking care of the ball has been essential to the Sixers' success this season. They have a 2.01 assists-to-turnover ratio which is tops in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Celtics have been one of the NBA's best at forcing teams into a relatively low assists-to-turnover ratio all season. Opponents have a 1.181 assists-to-turnover ratio against Boston, which is the fourth-lowest in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Philadelphia had an excellent game in terms of its ball movement. The Sixers had 24 assists while turning the ball over just nine times which is actually better than their season average.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players. 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.