OFFSEASON

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

191544.jpg

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

OFFSEASON

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

kevin-durant-060816.jpg

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

The wheels of the Kevin Durant free agent train have been set in motion.

"Durant’s representatives at Roc Nation are working to solidify invitations" for meetings with a list of five teams, which includes the Boston Celtics, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski. The other teams listed are the Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Spurs and Thunder. The Nuggets, Knicks, Lakers, Rockets, and Wizards could "could still find audiences with him," but they are considered outsiders.

Wojnarowski says the Thunder remain the frontrunners, but "the Warriors have Durant's attention."

If Durant chooses the Warriors it could happen very quickly. Warriors restricted free agent Harrison Barnes could sign an offer sheet for a contract on July 1, which would mean the Warriors would have only have three days to match the deal. They'd likely need a decision from Durant before then, or they'd risk losing one of their valuable pieces without being able to fill his role.

Durant plans on making his decision before July 9 anyway, according to Wojnarowski, because that's when he's leaving for a publicity tour in the Far East.

The fact the Celtics are even on Durant's primary list shouldn't come as a surprise considering his actions after his game in Boston against the Celtics earlier this year. They do have tough competition though. Both the Warriors and Heat have the cap space to absorb Durant's likely max contract worth about $26.4 million, and the Spurs can easily create the space if necessary.

The Clippers are interesting though, because they'd have to deal one of their stars (Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, or Blake Griffin) to free the cap space to sign Durant. If he does choose the Clippers, maybe Danny Ainge could help Doc Rivers swing a deal. How about something involving Blake Griffin and Jae Crowder?

But the Celtics have an edge. Their the only team listed that can sign two max contract free agents. If Durant wants to play with his buddy Al Horford, or anyone else for that matter, the Celtics can make it happen easily. How about a 2007 draft class reunion with Durant, Horford, and Jared Dudley? It's an odd trio, but Dudley has already expressed interest in joining the Celtics.

No matter what happens, though, the Celtics are in the race. Celtics fans might be disappointed after Thursday night. But we're just getting started, folks.

Kevin O’Connor can be followed on Twitter: @KevinOConnorNBA

OFFSEASON

Northeastern's Walker, Ford sign with NBA teams after going undrafted

ap_195812821197.jpg

Northeastern's Walker, Ford sign with NBA teams after going undrafted

The NBA will have more of a Northeastern flavor this season.

The Huskies' star guard David Walker is joining the Miami Heat for the NBA's summer league in Orlando and Las Vegas, according to Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer.

Walker averaged 17.9 points and 4.0 assists per game as a senior at Northeastern.

Quincy Ford is heading to the Utah Jazz with a partially guaranteed three-year contract after averaging 16.4 points, 7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game as a senior. That deal was first reported by The Vertical's Shams Charania.