Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo Dishes Out 15 Assists as C’s Crush Sixers 103-79


Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo Dishes Out 15 Assists as C's Crush Sixers 103-79End of game, Celtics win 103-79: Kevin Garnett scored 20 points and Rajon Rondo handed out 15 assists as the Celtics held the Sixers to 38 percent shooting. The Celtics put three games of distance between themselves and the Sixers in the Atlantic Division.

Fourth quarter, 5:58, Celtics 91-72: The Celtics may do just enough in the final quarter to protect their massive lead. Pavlovic, who has developed into a bit of a fan favorite, knocked down a 3-pointer to restore the Celtics' 19-point lead. The Celtics only had to be a litle better than average to stay well ahead of the Sixers, who could not seem to get out of their own way on offense.

Fourth quarter, 8:50, Celtics 86-70: This game is not yet in hand for the Celtics. They played like it to begin the final quarter, but a few quick baskets by the Sixers could change that.

The Sixers outscored the Celtics 7-2 in the first 3:10 of the fourth quarter, whittling what was once a 28-point lead down to 16 points.

End of third quarter, Celtics 84-63: The Celtics set the path for their first win over the Sixers this season. The Sixers only committed one turnover in the third quarter, but they still were unable to hit a shot.

The Celtics have shot 33-for-53 from the field (62 percent) and limited the Sixers to four second-chance points despite Philly tracking down nine offensive rebounds.

Third quarter, 2:42, Celtics 79-53: Rondo had six assists and five turnovers at halftime. Since then, he handed out eight assists and has had zero turnovers.

Not surprisingly, the Celtics burst out of the gates in the third quarter. The Celtics hit 12 of their first 15 shots in the quarter and held the Sixers to only 4-for-14 from the field. After a nice first half, Holiday went cold early in the second half, missing his first three shots while watching Rondo explode for four points and eight assists — normally good for an above-average half for the Celtics point guard.

Both of Rondo's baskets were end-of-the-shot-clock, fading-away variety, so do not expect that type of offense to continue.

And Stiemsma picked up his fifth foul, just like that.

Third quarter, 8:37, Celtics 61-38: If the Sixers planned on being better in the second half than they were in the first half, they did not get off to a good start.

The Celtics opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run and forced the Sixers to miss five of their first six shots. The Celtics were able to score five of their 11 points on fast breaks as a result.

Garnett was a perfect 2-for-2 from the field and the foul line for Boston.

Halftime, Celtics 50-36: The Sixers certainly will not be writing home about that first half any time soon. The Celtics were absolutely dominating, limiting the Sixers to just 6-for-22 shooting in the second quarter.

The Good: Just about everyone who played for the Celtics fared well in the first half. Pierce was 5-for-7 for 11 points. Kevin Garnett was 5-for-8 for 12 points, grabbed three rebounds and limited Spencer Hawes to two points with two turnovers and two fouls. Ray Allen came off the bench to score eight points. … Jrue Holiday is an underrated point guard. His teammates were not hitting shots, so he did not pick up any assists. He generated his own offense with eight points and also had two steals without a turnover.

The Bad: The Sixers' reliable bench mob of Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young and Jodie Meeks were a combined 0-for-11 from the field with three turnovers.

The So-so: Rajon Rondo was on his way to another 10-assist game, but this one did not have the feel of the previous 16 games. Rondo offset his six assists with five turnovers against the Sixers' aggressive defense.

Second quarter, 3:13, Celtics 45-28: Philadelphia has been the most effective team yet at limiting Bradley's ability to score off cuts at the rim. Bradley is only 2-for-5 from the field and has been bumped off at least two cuts, leading to turnovers by Rondo and Garnett.

But unless the Sixers hit a shot or stop turning the ball over, none of that matters. The Sixers shot just 11-for-31 from the field and had 11 turnovers with more than three minutes to go in the first half. The Sixers average just over 11 turnovers a game.

Second quarter, 5:59, Celtics 42-26: Something got into Garnett. Teamed with Allen on the second unit, the two veterans gave the Celtics a new energy. Garnett muscled toward the baseline for a banked-in, and-one layup to give the Celtics their largest lead at 16 points.

Allen spent the middle portion of the quarter covering Turner, while Bradley covered Williams and Pavlovic was matched up with Holiday. That says a lot about how the Celtics feel about Turner as an offensive player. The No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft has been inconsistent this season, and Pavlovic and Bradley are both superior defenders to Allen and would seem to be more natural matchups for the Ohio State product.

Second quarter, 8:56, Celtics 34-24: The second unit seemed to operate just fine with Allen, thank you very much.

Allen dropped a 3-pointer as the Celtics opened the second quarter on a 9-2 run. Allen hit two of his first three shots and for the second straight game also seemed more active on the boards, hauling in two rebounds within his first eight minutes.

The Sixers are a much different team than the one the Celtics saw earlier this season. Philly is the best team in the league at taking care of the ball, but they have committed eight turnoves (almost all unforced) with more than half the second quarter remaining.

End of first quarter, Celtics 25-22: The nets were scorching in the opening minutes, with both teams well over 60 percent from the field until the closing minutes of the first quarter.

The Celtics ended the frame 11-for-17, while the Sixers were 9-for-17. If not for the strong shooting, the first quarter could have been ugly. The two teams combined for 11 turnovers.

Rondo found Bass a bit late on the final play of the quarter, and Bass was unable to get off a shot before the buzzer. The crowd was unhappy to see the official wave off Bass' bucket, but replays appeared to show they made the right call.

First quarter, 2:32, Celtics 19-18: Both of these teams protect the ball well, so it was a little surprising to see them commit five turnovers each within the first 10 minutes. If the Celtics can keep the turnover numbers down, they will have a much better chance of defeating Philadelphia for the first time this season.

First quarter, 5:22, game tied 12-12: Rondo fulfilled any great point guard's duty of keeping his big men happy. After he attempted a pass to Bass that was tipped away out of bounds, Rondo came right back and found Bass for a foul-line jumper to get the forward into the scorebook.

The Sixers are dangerous when their opponent turns the ball over. Holiday showed that by cutting off a bounce pass by Rondo on a break, taking it up floor and finding Iguodala for a soaring alley-oop dunk.

5:35 p.m.: Mickael Pietrus was in the building, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Pietrus has passed one test required to return from the Grade III concussions he suffered against these Sixers in Philadelphia on March 23.

Pietrus was not wearing sunglasses, Rivers said, and seemed in good spirits.

This could be the last time the Sixers utilize this starting unit. Collins promised changes after this game if his team has another slow start. The Sixers have made their hay by sparking their offense by forcing turnovers and defensive stops, but point guard Jrue Holiday said the first unit may have to be more aggressive in the early going.

5:20 p.m.: The Sixers handed the Celtics two sound beatings this season, so the Sixers are fairly certain this one will be lucky No. 3, right?

Sixers coach Doug Collins was not ready to go that far in his pregame media availability.

"I can imagine right now that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and these guys are in here talking about, let's deliver the knockout punch today," Collins said. "This game I feel like they feel if they beat us today, they knock us out. They're very proud. They're playing great basketball right now."

Collins acknowledged that the Sixers caught the Celtics "two funky times" on the second night of back-to-backs. He said he is "always confident," but the Sixers' success earlier this season has no bearing on his or his team's confidence in this game.

The probable starting lineups appear below.

Spencer Hawes
Elton Brand
Andre Iguodala
Evan Turner
Jrue Holiday

Kevin Garnett
Brandon Bass
Paul Pierce
Avery Bradley
Rajon Rondo 

8 a.m. ET: The Celtics' spring into the lead in the Atlantic Division, and the top-four playoff seed that accompanies it, has had one major hole. They have won 16 of their 23 games since the All-Star break, but they have lost badly to the division rival Philadelphia 76ers in both meetings, giving up more than 200 points in the process.

The Celtics (31-24) get an opportunity to change that Sunday, when they host the reeling Sixers (29-26). Philadelphia has stumbled to 9-12 since the All-Star break following Saturday's loss to the Orlando Magic.

If anything, the Sixers had to be relieved to get away from their home arena, where they drew boos  Saturday while suffering their third straight loss and fifth in eight games.

Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden, where tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him at @BenjeeBallgame.

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