The Celtics, without Sullinger, Humphries, or Bayless, struggled to find a presence in the paint, and fell to the 76ers 108-113.
A pretty speedy pace from the get-go tonight, both teams put up 33 points in the first quarter, a quarter where interior defense appeared to be entirely an afterthought.
Jeff Green and Avery Bradley were shooting hot in the first (12 and seven points respectively), and Rondo did some fancy Rondo things (recording five assists in the process). Kelly Olynyk was pretty strong too, finishing hard in the paint on several occasions. On the other end, Philly’s Michael Carter-Williams was all over the court, rebounding and finding no troubles getting to the basket. Actually, most of the 76ers points came in the paint early on — 24 of those 33 to be precise. Which led to a… Joel Anthony sighting!
Danny Ainge, who sat in with Chris Herren and Mike Gorman, reiterated that the Celtics’ biggest need this offseason is rim protection. Tonight certainly proved that to be true. Ainge was pretty quiet as far as discussing the future, but it’s still always interesting to hear him chime in on some stuff.
Also, around the midway point of the first quarter, Rondo took a Thaddeus Young elbow right across the bridge of the nose. He stayed down for a minute or two, and although it wouldn’t have been surprising if he suffered a concussion, trainer Ed Lacerte cleared him to return a few minutes later (exhale).
Moving on, the pace in the second quarter seemed slower, though Philly managed to crack the game open by continuing their assault scoring in the paint (46 at halftime!). Yes we were without some bigs, and yes closing out the tankathon strong is important… But getting burned by the 76ers bench is still incredibly frustrating. At halftime, the C’s had five bench points to the Sixers 38, and Philly led the game 67-50.
For a short strech before halftime, we saw a Pressey-Bradley-Babb lineup, with Bass and Olynyk in the front court. It didn’t appear to be too effective (Babb was a -10 in the six minutes), but it was still nice to see Chris getting some minutes before the offseason.
Across the board, the C’s were much better in the third quarter. They tightened up their defensive presence, allowing just six points in the paint, and held the Sixers to 19 points total. The offense came mostly from Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk, with a little help from Chris Johnson (six points, 2-2 from deep). For a game that looked to be headed towards blowout territory, the Celtics got themselves together and cut the lead down to only two points by the end of the quarter.
For a mid-April battle between two of the NBA’s worst teams, the fourth quarter felt pretty intense — A bunch of hard fouls, blocked shots, and strong finishes, all in a tight game. Unfortunately, the officiating crew had to take time to review a couple calls, which effectively killed the game’s flow. The second play to be reviewed, a deep Kelly Olynyk jump shot was ruled a two-pointer (toe on the line), and cut the Sixer lead to three with about 40 seconds remaining (Olynyk, quietly, actually set a career-high tonight with 28 points). On the next possession, Henry Sims stretched the lead to five with a jump shot, and Jeff Green responded with a five-second violation. The game seemed over, but there is a reason the 76ers are 17-63, and the Celtics actually scrapped up an improbable chance to tie the game: Down three, Rondo dribbled around for about 15 seconds before handing the ball off to Chris Johnson, who stepped out of bounds…and then hit a three. Another replay review confirmed the on-court ruling, and the game ended. Celtics lost a close one but also get one step closer to a better draft pick. File under: Silver Linings.
Olynyk continued to find the basket (after 25 points in Cleveland), he put the ball on the floor often and set a new career high. 28 points on 10-19 shooting.
Speaking of Kelly, Ainge mentioned a discussion they had, about cutting the locks off for charity this summer. Maybe it’ll be good for his aerodynamicy.
Rondo almost had a triple-double, 11 boards, 14 assists, eight points.
Bench Point Differential: Celtics finished with 13, Sixers with 54.
Interior Defense: 64 points in the paint total. C’s did a much better job in the second half.
Avery Bradley was 2-11 from deep.
Jeff Green’s steal and alley-oop finish.
The Danny Ainge ‘stache
- Sixers had 23 fast-break points to the Celtics’ 8.
- Both starting point guards led their team in rebounds.
- The Sixers take the season series 3-1.