Doc Rivers was asked before Wednesday’s game if his team should be worried about a letdown against a Sixers team that was without two starters, and whom they had throttled by 29 points in Philly earlier this month. Doc’s Response? Um, yeah. Didn’t Golden State beat Dallas the other night with just six players, the coach asked.
The Celtics haven’t been able to take very much for granted since that first Sixers game and it became obvious very early that Philly had come to play, even after a wrenching loss to the Wizards the night before and even without Lou Williams and Elton Brand.
In the end the Celtics took every punch and landed a few more of their own in a 113-110 victory. The win continued their recent trend of playing down-to-the-wire games against sub-500 teams, but they’ll take it. Again.
Player of the Game: Paul Pierce. For everything that is going wrong with the Celtics, Pierce continues to play out of his head. It wasn’t just the 27 points, five rebounds and six assists either. With the Celtics clinging to a 107-105 lead, Andre Iguodala came steamrolling down the floor and Pierce stood his ground and took the charge.
Turning point: Rajon Rondo raised a few eyebrows through the first three quarters by continuing to pass up layups in favor of making an extra pass. One time he caught Kevin Garnett underneath the basket on a give-and-go-and-give leaving Garnett no choice but to fling the ball toward the hoop while he was already underneath it.
But in the fourth quarter Rondo finally came alive, taking the ball aggressively to the hoop and looking to score. The Celtics used a small lineup during this stretch and Rondo took advantage of the space available on the floor. Things become so much easier for the Celtics when Rondo has the mindset to finish once he breaks down the defense.
* Once again the Celtics were beaten on the offensive glass. The Sixers had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, which led to 18 second-chance points.
* Philly is in the bottom third in the league in 3-point shooting at a tick over 32 percent. Naturally the Sixers shot 13-for-20 from 3-point range.
*One area the Celtics did excel in was getting to the free throw line, making 30-of-39. Garnett was 9-for-12.
* Rasheed Wallace didn’t exactly “break out” of his shooting slump, but he did make two of six from beyond the arc.
* Kendrick Perkins, Ray Allen and Garnett all spent considerable portions of the fourth quarter on the bench. The Celtics and Sixers were both using small lineups, which left Perk out even though he had 12 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. Garnett was spelled by Wallace as part of his regular rotation, while Allen gave way to Marquis Daniels. After 15 games the only thing that’s obvious about the rotations and lineups is that Rivers is still looking for the right combinations.
* Great coaching move and execution in the final seconds as the Celtics were able to foul Iguodala, and then Jason Kapono with a three-point lead instead of letting either of them get off a chance at a tying shot. While it’s clearly the right strategy, very few teams actually carry through with the play or execute it correctly.