Celtics fight back to stave off Sixers, 99-82


Celtics fight back to stave off Sixers, 99-82

By A.Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON Uh-oh. Here we go again.

The Boston Celtics' double-digit lead in the third quarter was trimmed to just a handful of points.

And then, they did something we haven't seen them do much of lately when put in that predicament -- fight back.

The lead was soon pushed back to double digits as the Celtics steadily pulled away for a 99-82 win over Philadelphia Tuesday night.

We've seen the Celtics (54-23) deliver some masterful performances this season, with Tuesday's win ranking among their more complete performances.

"We ran up against a team that played probably as well as they've played in a long time," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.

Although the final score doesn't speak to how close the game was for most of the night, there was little doubt about which team was better.

And while much of the talk leading up to the game centered around it being a playoff preview - if the players were today, these two would meet in the first round - Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't see his team's win being any kind of statement-like victory.

"Not at all," Rivers said. "I just think we won today, and they lost, and they're going to watch film and we're going to watch film. But it's a good win."

Especially when you consider the second-half slump that has engulfed this team far too many times lately, was never an issue.

In the third quarter, a jumper by Kevin Garnett gave the Celtics a 63-50 lead, their largest of the game at that time.

The Sixers responded by scoring 10 of the next 11 points to cut Boston's lead to 64-60.

Lately, that was the kind of run that set up an even bigger run by Boston's opponents.

But rather than continue to slump, the Celtics surged ahead by closing out the quarter with an 11-5 run to take a 75-65 lead into the fourth.

"It was nice, and we did it while subbing," said Rivers. "So to me that was even more important."

Paul Pierce, who had 18 points - all coming after the first quarter - echoed similar sentiments about the Celtics' strong play to close out the third quarter.

"We had a better sense of urgency, coming out of that time-out with 3:59 to play in the third," Pierce said. "The last couple games, we built up 10-point leads and teams got right back in to it. We did a better job of holding the lead, and being a little bit more solid."

Fueling Boston's strong play was Rajon Rondo, who continues to play at a level we haven't seen since the start of the season when he was among the top players in the NBA.

On Tuesday, he had a near double-double of 12 points and nine assists by halftime before finishing with 16 points and 13 assists for his 30th double-double this season.

"He was just aggressive, attacking and shooting," Rivers said. "You can see, he's getting himself ready for the playoffs."

And it wasn't just his scoring that gave the Sixers problems.

After Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday had 11 points in the first quarter, Rondo was part of a Celtics defense that kept him scoreless for the rest of the game.

For the game, Boston limited the Sixers to just 39.3 percent shooting, which included just 31.8 percent in the fourth.

"It started with Rondo," said Kevin Garnett, referring to Boston's strong play defensively. "He started to put pressure on the ball and I thought it just trickled down. I thought when we needed to get stops we got stops. multiple stops. After that, it was pretty much over."

And so now the Celtics move on to where they'll face the Chicago Bulls, yet another opponent that they might see at some point in the postseason.

Chances are at some point in that game, the Celtics will be have a lead and have it challenged by the Bulls who sit atop the Eastern Conference standings.

But Boston comes into that game off a night when as the game got tight, for a change, they didn't.

"Hopefully we can play a lot more games like this," Pierce said. "Just try to finish off the season on a good note."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Gerald Green's injury may give others a shot a Celtics camp


Gerald Green's injury may give others a shot a Celtics camp

WALTHAM, Mass. – Gerald Green’s hip flexor injury isn’t anything he or the Celtics are overly concerned about.

They know Green as well as any player on this roster, so him missing a couple days will have no effect on his status in their eyes.

But in shutting him down for a couple days, his absence affords a number of players an opportunity to stand up in what is an absolutely pivotal, potentially career-altering season.

James Young is in his third training camp with the Celtics and no one has a real feel for where he fits into the pantheon of NBA players.

He hasn’t played enough to call him a bust, but hasn’t done enough to feel as though he has a bright future in this league either.

And then there’s R.J. Hunter, who came into the NBA with the reputation of being a spot-on shooter.

As a rookie last season, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard struggled knocking down shots when he got playing which for most of the season, was limited.

So, what does that have to do with Green’s injury?

His absence means those two players will get more reps on the floor, providing each with potentially more chances to impress the coaching staff.

It means Young will get a few more shots at showing the added strength, weight and improved skills will enhance his chances to not just make the 15-man roster but also compete for potential minutes.

As for Hunter, he has to make shots.

It’s that simple.

While he showed potential as a rookie to do a number of things on the floor, the easiest way for him to solidify a spot on the roster is to do what he does best which is make baskets.

At the end of the day, one of these guys will not be in a Celtics uniform this season. Between now and then, every opportunity they get to impress the coaches has to be taken advantage of which is exactly what they each will get courtesy of Green’s short-term injury.



Rozier ready to compete for serious minutes in Celtics rotation


Rozier ready to compete for serious minutes in Celtics rotation

WALTHAM, Mass. – Summer league was in full bloom and Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier was killin’ it.
Dropping dimes.
Swooping in for rebounds.
Young fella was having the kind of summer that breeds confidence for him as well as the franchise that shocked many in selecting him as high as they did in 2015.  
But as well as he played, he knew getting on the floor wasn’t going to be easy because he would have to cut into the minutes of already-established players.
And then he got the news that Evan Turner was leaving for Portland after agreeing to a four-year, $70 million contract.
Turner’s departure meant Rozier’s chances of playing regular minutes had indeed arrived.

“Nobody wants to lose a guy like ET; great looker room guy, great down the stretch,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “But that gave me even more of an opportunity to play and step up. It gave me a better feeling about this year, knowing I could get minutes.”

On Monday during media day, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was asked about the void on the Celtic’s roster with Turner now playing for the Blazers.
“I miss Evan Turner already; loved having him around,” Ainge said. He’s not going to be easy to replace and neither will Jared Sullinger (he signed a one-year deal with Toronto). But we do have some exciting young players. Jaylen (Brown) and Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier … very exciting players. I don’t know who will get all of Evan’s minutes, but they will be shared and we can fill that void.”

But Turner’s 28.0 minutes per game will likely serve as a portion of the minutes Rozier will carve out for his own this season.
“I know he’s going to try and take some of my minutes,” said Celtics all-star guard Isaiah Thomas earlier this summer. “But that’s what it’s about; competing.”
Rozier’s competitive nature has stood out during his short time in Boston, with the 22-year-old finding a way to balance that with not being too pushy or too hungry to play.
“He’s an All-Star,” Rozier said of Thomas. “I look at it like this. To go up against someone like (Thomas) every day is a blessing.”
But Rozier soon adds, “I’m trying to get better, but I want to play too. Getting his minutes, anybody’s minutes, I’m going for it. But I know he’s not going to lighten up and make it easy for me. I know that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
And as he gradually establishes a role for himself on this team, maybe then people will warm up to a player that so many had doubts about when the Celtics selected him with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
“I’ve been doubted all my life,” Rozier said. “It ain’t hurt me. I always tell myself, ‘they’re gonna fall in love with me because I play hard and they’re gonna fall in love with my intensity level. People didn’t know who I was; that’s fine. They’ll find out about me soon enough.”