By Jessica Camerato
BOSTON - Doc Rivers reached out to his former assistant, Tom Thibodeau, after Thibodeau's Bulls blew out the Philadelphia 76ers by 45 points on Tuesday.
The tone? Thanks for nothing.
He knew the Boston Celtics would have to deal with a hungry Sixers squad the following night, and they did. Still, the Celtics managed to scrap their way to an 84-80 victory Wednesday and extend their winning streak to 14 games.
"I texted a very mean message to Thibs," Rivers laughed before Wednesday's game. "So you know the Sixers are going to be ready. You know that. That's just human nature. You don't want to be the next game, obviously. But we are, so we'll just have to deal with that."
The Celtics quickly found themselves in a fight.
The C's controlled the first quarter, outscoring the Sixers 23-17 and shooting 48 percent from the field. Ray Allen quickly recorded 11 points while Jrue Holiday scored 9 for Philly.
In the second quarter, however, the Celtics looked like they were the team on the tail end of a back-to-back. They shot just 7-for-22 as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett went scoreless. The Celtics were whistled for 10 personal fouls in the quarter as the Sixers outscored them 12-0 at the line. The 76ers led 44-38 at halftime.
"I know I was frustrated tonight," said Pierce. "Just in a game where you're trying to get a rhythm and the game is off balance and calls are being called each and every way, it's like it's hard to get in rhythm and it was definitely frustrating tonight. Sometimes that happens -- you let the refs get the best of you and you do that, and you know, obviously, it affected my play. But somehow, someway we tried a way to grind it out, come back to reality, and find a way to win."
The Celtics opened the third quarter on a 9-4 run, including Pierce's first baskets of the game, and took a 64-61 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.
The fourth quarter was a see-saw of offense. The Sixers came out strong to tie the game at 68-68 and then took a four-point lead, 74-70, behind former Celtic Tony Battie.
Rivers had to make an adjustment. He called on Shaquille O'Neal for a rare late-game appearance. With O'Neal on the court, the Celtics attacked the basket and scored 8 of their next 10 points at the line to take a 80-78 edge.
"He was huge for us when we needed him," Garnett said of Shaq. "Usually he's not in there during that course of the time of the game. But he was big for us. He got us into the bonus."
A critical turnover by Iguodala with 50 seconds left halted the Sixers momentum and put the ball back in the hands of the Celtics, who iced the game with free throws by Allen.
Rivers wasn't thrilled by his team's performance, but he was happy with the outcome.
"We were not very good tonight," he said. "But we won the game, and that's the only thing youll take from this game tonight, is that we won the game."
Allen led all players with 22 points, and Elton Brand recorded a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double for the 76ers.
The Celtics improved to 23-4 on the season while the Sixers fell to 11-18.
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