Game over, Sixers win 88-79: Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo had 12 points each, while Green added 10 rebounds and four blocked shots and Rondo handed out 10 assists, as the Celtics closed their preseason schedule with a loss to the Sixers.
The result was even more of an afterthought than usual, as the Celtics were purely looking to get this over with so they could prepare for Miami on opening night. Dorell Wright went off for 20 points for Philadelphia, which looks like it may be developing an identity after an offseason roster overhaul.
Fourth quarter, 2:51, Sixers 84-73: Well, if anybody is ready for some regular-season action, it was the fans at the TD Garden.
We use the past tense because a lot of them fled the building when Micah Downs, Rob Kurz, Fab Melo and the crew hopped off the bench to play out the string in this game. Eight exhibition games is way too many, as we have said before, and everyone wants to get some real games going.
The atmosphere in Miami on Oct. 30 will be a bit less ho-hum, we are guessing.
Fourth quarter, 8:46, Sixers 73-66: Garnett has had a forgettable game for the most part, but one thing he has done extremely well is draw fouls. Garnett’s pump-faking and pivoting in the post is a huge reason the Celtics had drawn 19 fouls on Philly. Lavoy Allen, the young big man who defended Garnett so well in last year’s playoffs, picked up his sixth foul with more than eight minutes left in the game and fouled out in less than 17 minutes on the floor.
End of third quarter, Sixers 66-62: Without a doubt, the Sixers’ hopes of competing with the Heat, Celtics and Pacers for one of the East’s top four seeds relies on the health of Andrew Bynum. (Settle down. Nobody is saying the Sixers will be one of the top four. We are saying that for them to be in the discussion, Bynum needs to be healthy.)
The Sixers showed that they can still be a handful without their All-Star center, though. An even scoring attack led by Wright’s 16 points, Hawes’ 12 points and Holiday and Turner with 10 points each gave the Celtics fits through three quarters, and not even double-digit scoring performances by Bass and Lee made much difference. The Celtics led in fastbreak points 13-2 but trailed in second-chance points 12-6 even though they led the rebounding battle 30-28.
Third quarter, 2:53, Sixers 62-55: The Celtics’ ball movement is one of a number of things that need to improve if they plan to contend for a title. They had only 16 assists on 23 field goals to the Sixers’ 19 assists. Rondo had nine assists, but he made up the extent of the playmaking for the stagnant Celtics offense, which would be down big if not for 12 free throw attempts awarded by the officials.
Oh yeah, and Bass got a technical for something. It was tough to tell what he did, but he did not argue against the call.
Third quarter, 6:24, Sixers 57-53: Throughout the offseason and preseason, Rivers has told everyone who will listen that the Atlantic Division is greatly improved from year’s past. The Knicks and Nets are stronger, and the Sixers look like they will be a pain in the you-know-what, too.
Some nice ball movement and hounding defense by the Celtics got them within two points of the Sixers, but Garnett’s potentially game-tying jumper spun out. Once the Sixers got the ball, sneaky-good center Hawes slipped his screen and received a pass for a one-handed dunk, completely leaving Garnett in his dust. Garnett was displeased with himself and Rivers was just plain displeased.
Halftime, Sixers lead 51-41: If the Sixers are not sure what their new identity is yet, the Celtics seemed just as uncertain about their own in the first half. When they had success pushing the ball for a while, they settled into halfcourt sets. When working the ball down low was successful, they settled for outside jump shots. Not surprisingly, their effectiveness fell off on offense.
The Celtics shot 53 percent from the field in the first quarter but only 7-for-21 (33 percent) in the second quarter, despite some defensive highlights. Green once again looked like one of the sharper players on the floor, along with Rondo. Green had six points, five rebounds and three blocks at halftime, while Rondo had a team-high 10 points, five assists and only one turnover.
Paul Pierce has had a few impressive preseason performances but so far this was not one of them. He missed seven of his nine field goal attempts, two of which were blocked, in 20 minutes. His most positive contributions to the Celtics’ cause were his two steals.
Dorell Wright, who can get hot on occasion, hit five of his nine shots and led everyone with 14 points.
Second quarter, 5:17, Sixers 38-37: Good defense leads to missed shots, which lead to rebounds, which lead to fast breaks, which lead to easy points.
The Celtics finally found some mojo on defense and turned that into instant offense. After Green recorded his third blocked shot of the game, Rondo dashed down the lane on the break and dished outside to Lee for a corner 3-pointer. Lee’s shot rattled home, pulling Boston within a point.
Second quarter, 8:22, Sixers 31-28: Dorell Wright is a streaky shooter and an underrated player overall, but one thing the 6-foot-7, 200-pound swingman from Los Angeles cannot do is defend Sullinger in the post. Sullinger abused Wright twice after catching the ball too deep for the stringy shooting guard to contend with.
The Celtics did their best impersonation of the Patriots on defense, though, and as a result were looking up at Philly on the scoreboard. The C’s were late in their rotations on any type of play the Sixers ran, no matter how elementary, even with Garnett on the court. It was not a good look for a team that prides itself on staunch defense above all.
End of first quarter, Celtics 22-21: Courtney Lee hounded Nick Young and forced the Sixers shooting guard into bad shots. All right, so making Young take bad shots is not anything special, but Lee was in his sternum at the end of the first quarter. He tipped away a Young crossover out of bounds and was angry at himself from not swiping it entirely.
First quarter, 2:32, Celtics 20-19: The first step to scoring points is not screen-setting, ballhandling or calling the right play. It starts with making a simple outlet pass after securing the rebound.
Bass and Green each failed to complete this rather easy task, and although Green bailed himself out with a two-handed block of Spencer Hawes’ layup attempt, the Celtics struggled to bail themselves out of the other four turnovers they committed. The first 10 minutes of the game were haphazard for both teams, even though the shooting was relatively on point. The Sixers had five turnovers of their own and were whistled for seven fouls.
First quarter, 7:20, Celtics 12-3: The Celtics have a huge size advantage on the wing with Turner covering Green, but the most typical matchup was the one that gave the Sixers the most problems early.
Rajon Rondo toasted Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday by hitting his first six shots and assisting two of the Celtics’ other three baskets.
7:38 p.m.: Curveball. Sullinger was listed as a starter, but Brandon Bass was just announced. Also, Jeff Green will start in place of Lee, who was listed with the top five as well, making either Green or Pierce a big shooting guard.
6:58 p.m.: Leandro Barbosa’s anticipated debut in a Celtics uniform has been delayed by the pesky state department. Apparently there are some visa issues for the Brazilian national to clear before he can don the green and white in an actual game.
Barbosa warmed up prior to the game and spoke to reporters while wearing practice gear, but he joined Darko Milicic and Chris Wilcox on the scratch list. Milicic could play if it were the regular season, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, and he had no more updates on Wilcox’s progress from back issues.
The starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m. ET: A long slog
that began in Istanbul and made stops in Milan, Hartford and Albany finally
comes to an end Sunday as the Celtics close their exhibition schedule at home
against the Philadelphia 76ers.
With Paul Pierce and
Kevin Garnett expected to be back in the lineup after a night off, the Celtics
will take on the same team they edged in seven games in the Eastern Conference
Semifinals last spring. Granted, the Sixers made major changes to their roster
in the offseason. And granted, the score and the statistics from this game will
not matter. But what better way to judge the Celtics’ fitness for the upcoming
season than by playing the last team they slew last season?
Join us for updates and
analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.