Celtics beat Sixers for 14th in a row, 84-80

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Celtics beat Sixers for 14th in a row, 84-80

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

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.
Follow Jessica Camerato on Twitter at http:www.twitter.comjcameratonba

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”