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Preview: Celtics-Sixers 03.05.10 at 10:57 am ET
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A question that has been hanging in the air during this Celtics season: Should they be more aggressive? Should the Celtics be a little more (choose your adjective here) physical, punishing, nasty?

Paul Pierce certainly thought so. “That’s who are, truthfully,” he said after Wednesday’s game that featured a minor run-in with Stephen Jackson. “We’re a team that usually intimidates.” Pierce was quick to add that he didn’t advocate crossing whatever arbitrary line is drawn in the NBA sand these days regarding physical play.

Certainly the Celtics aren’t about to emulate the 90’s “no layups” Knicks, mostly because the rules have changed to the point where no one can play that kind of rough and tumble basketball without getting half the roster suspended. The Celtics are up among the league leaders in technical fouls with 77 (Orlando of all teams is the leader in the clubhouse with 79), but that’s more agitation than intimidation.

They’ve been called bullies and trash talkers before, but that’s a different thing, as well. The Celtics have played 59 games and they still seem like a team that is searching for an identity. Perhaps their old one fit just fine.

SIXERS (22-38, 3-7 last 10)

Points Per Game: 97.6

Points Allowed: 101.0

Differential: -3.4 (21st)

Offensive Efficiency: 105.6 (21st)

Defensive Efficiency: 109.2 (22nd)

Pace: 91.8 (21st)

Likely Staters: Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Sam Dalembert

Injuries: Elton Brand (Achilles, questionable), Mareese Speights (Knee, questionable), Allen Iverson (Personal)

CELTICS (38-21, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.7

Points Allowed: 94.1

Differential: +4.6 (7th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.1 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.1 (2nd)

Pace: 91.7 (22nd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: None.
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Celtics-Sixers Preview 12.18.09 at 11:37 am ET
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What a wonderful thing hindsight can be. In the summer of 2007, the Celtics traded most of their accumulated young talent and assets to acquire Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. This bold action by Danny Ainge has obviously proved to be brilliant thanks to a championship and two-plus years of contention. It seems obvious now, but at the time there was concern that Ainge had given away the store for a couple of vets with a lot of mileage on their odometers, even vets whose final destination was the Hall of Fame.

In the summer of 2008, new Sixers general manager Ed Stefansi thought he had also pulled off a brilliant coup by signing free agent Elton Brand to a massive five-year contract. It seemed obvious then that adding an automatic low-post scorer to a young, athletic, perimeter-oriented team would be a difference-maker. Less then two years in, Stefanski’s power play has proven dubious at best, and franchise-wrecking at worst.

So dubious that Stefanski was compelled to hire Allen Iverson for one last go-round in a desperate attempt to boost attendance. After a sold-out debut, the fans have stayed away and Iverson is hurt after playing too many minutes too fast. Now the Sixers are just another bad NBA team with too many bad contracts and no direction.

CELTICS (20-4, 10-0 last 10)

Points Per Game: 100.8

Points Allowed: 91.2

Differential: +9.6 (First)

Offensive Efficiency: 110.0 (Ninth)

Defensive Efficiency: 99.4 (First)

Pace: 91.3 (24th)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: Marquis Daniels (wrist), Glen Davis (thumb)

SIXERS (6-19, 1-9 last 10)

Points Per Game: 97.2

Points Allowed: 101.6

Differential: – 4.4 (26th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106. 7 (17th)

Defensive Efficiency: 111.4 (28th)

Pace: 90.8 (27th)

Likely Starters: Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, Sam Delambert

Injuries: Allen Iverson (knee), Lou Williams (jaw)

Key Matchup: Allen and Pierce vs. Iguodala and Young

One of the side effects of the Brand signing is that Iguodala was forced to slide down to the off-guard position and Young to the small forward spot. During their short time together, Iguodala and Young have proven far more capable as forwards, albeit undersized forwards. Brand changed that dynamic and while it’s not his fault that his general manager didn’t understand his own team’s dynamic, it has proven to be an ill fit. Still, Iguodala and Young are a tough matchup for whoever draws the assignment.

Celtics in a Paragraph: The regular season is a process. A long, slow, drawn-out process. Right now the Celtics are playing their best basketball of the season, and have a nice stretch of spread-out home games to continue their winning ways before embarking on a west coast road trip with a stopover in Orlando on Christmas Day. Until then their enemy is the process.

Sixers in a Paragraph: For all that is wrong with Philly, there is one thing they do well and that one thing has proven to be the Celtics Achilles heel — offensive rebounding. Keep the Sixers off the offensive glass and there isn’t much left in their bag of tricks. Philly racked up 12 offensive rebounds in its last meeting with the Celtics, which helped the Sixers stay in the game until Rondo took over in the fourth quarter.

What to Watch For: In one of the more bizarre subplots of the NBA season, three of the Celtics four losses have come at home on Friday nights. It’s not much to go on if you’re the Sixers, but it beats hoping Holiday can keep up with Rondo.

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Fast Break: Celtics-Sixers 11.25.09 at 10:15 pm ET
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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.

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Fast break: Celtics-Sixers 11.03.09 at 9:26 pm ET
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The Celtics improved to 5-0 on the young season with a 105-74 win over the Sixers Tuesday night in Philadelphia. It was the Celtics first game against an Atlantic Division foe and while they struggled offensively at times they remained dominant defensively, holding Philly to 36 percent shooting and 1-for-16 from 3-point range.

The Celtics broke it open in the fourth quarter with 23-5 run, which gave Lester Hudson, JR Giddens and Brian Scalabrine ample time to work on their games. The trio scored 13 points. Philly’s leading scorer, Andre Iguodala scored 17. It was that kind of night.

Player of the game: Rasheed Wallace. Philly’s favorite son shot the Celtics into the lead with three first half 3-pointers and broke it open with three more in the second half. Wallace finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes of action.

Turning point: It was late in the first quarter and the Celtics were having a miserable time of it offensively. They had scored points on just two of their first 15 possessions and weren’t running anything resembling an offense. That’s when Rajon Rondo popped a 20-foot jumper. The second unit came in soon after that and the hot shooting of Wallace, Eddie House and Marquis Daniels opened up a double-digit lead.

Rondo’s shot was a minor blip in that run, but further confirmation that he has more confidence in his jumper.

* According to the early box score, Marquis Daniels was an unadjusted +21 for the Celtics. What that means in layman’s terms is that the Celtics were 15 points better than Philly when Daniels was on the floor. Unadjusted +/- is not a very reliable indicator of performance over time, but it helps reveal Daniels’ contribution in a way that six points, three rebounds and four assists never will.

* In theory you don’t need a true point guard to run the Princeton offense that new Philly coach Eddie Jordan is employing. That’s good news for Philly because Lou Williams is a lot of things, but a true point isn’t one of them. What you do need are willing passers, good shooters and movement away from the ball. The Sixers had none of that.

* The Celtics opened the fourth quarter with a 69-54 lead. That’s a comfortable margin, but it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the starters back on the floor at some point to finish it off. Instead, the bench pushed the lead to 33 points and the starters never had to take off their warmups again. Those kinds of unexpected gifts are invaluable over the course of the season.

* Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Kendrick Perkins were a combined 4-for-18. Everyone else was 37-for-54. Frightening.

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The Celtics are not alone 04.01.09 at 9:10 pm ET
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When news broke this week that the Celtics were shutting down star Kevin Garnett until his sore right knee feels strong enough to take the punishment of practices and games, many thought their ‘ticket’ to a return to the NBA Finals was in jeopardy.

And while that certainly may be the case, another story came out Wednesday about an injury to a team that the Green might face in the first round.

HoopsWorld reported that Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young could miss 2-3 weeks after spraining and bruising his left ankle last night in Philly’s win over Atlanta. That would keep him out the rest of the regular season and possibly the first game of the playoffs, which open on April 18.

The sprain and bruise were diagnosed after an MRI today and Young will be using crutches and an air cast on the ankle for a bit.

Why should Celtics fans care? Because Young, along with superstar Andre Iguodala, gives Philly the type of size in the front court to match up with Boston.

The 6-8 Young has started 68 games for Philly this season and has greatly improved his statistics in every category over his rookie numbers, averaging 15.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 assists on 49% shooting from the floor.

In March, Young scored 20.5 points a game and averaged 5.5 rebounds, scoring 20 or more points in 10 of 15 games. The Sixers would likely replace Young with bruiser Reggie Evans (a Celtics killer on the glass) and Marreese Speights. They do have depth but losing Young hurts.

Now, Philly’s hold on sixth in the East doesn’t look so sure with Detroit trying to make a move. No. 7 Detroit would play No. 2 Orlando right now and No. 8 Chicago would take on top-seeded Cleveland.

Read More: Celtics, NBA, Sixers, Thaddeus Young
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