Game over, Sixers win 95-94: Rajon Rondo was walking funny ever since he came down awkwardly while trying to get a rebound, and it appeared to affect him on the final play of the game. He inbounded to Kevin Garnett and cut toward the baseline as Garnett handed him the ball, but Rondo stumbled and missed everything with his buzzer beater as he appeared to favor one ankle.
Why Garnett did not shoot it himself is a mystery, since he had 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting (along with 10 rebounds), but of course we have seen Garnett be unselfish to a fault before. Rondo had a heck of a game with 16 points, 14 assists, 13 rebounds, three blocks and three steals, but any Celtics fan would take Garnett posted up against Lavoy Allen 12 times out of 10.
Evan Turner was immense for Philadelphia. The third-year guard scored 26 points, falling one point shy of matching Paul Pierce for the game-high, and also nabbed 10 rebounds. Thaddeus Young quietly chipped in 17 points and 12 rebounds.
These guys will not have much time to cool off before going right back at it Saturday in Beantown. See you at the Garden.
Overtime, :03.9, Sixers 95-94: What a tough stretch for Courtney Lee. After airballing a 3-pointer, Lee picked up Turner on defense and played very strong D on the young Sixer. But Turner, whose improvement this season has been a revelation for a guy who appeared to be a bust in the making, swished the jumper and gave his team the lead.
Overtime, 1:54, Celtics 94-93: Terry just could not find his stroke as regulation stretched into overtime. Fortunately for him, Green was there to pick him up. The swingman drilled a corner triple to yank Boston ahead as the lead changed yet again. The Celtics’ defense seemed to wake up and was making every offensive possession brutal for the Sixers.
End of regulation, game tied 89-89: Well, the Celtics did execute. If their intention was the get an 18-footer by Rondo, they succeeded. Rondo did not succeed in making the shot, however, so overtime awaited.
Fourth quarter, :02.7, game tied 89-89: Turner just showed why the Sixers still have a little bit of work to do. In a last-shot situation, he dribbled into the corner and let himself get trapped, and his desperation pass attempt was picked off by Rondo. Timeout, Celtics, who presumably would execute better than Philly did.
Fourth quarter, :07.7, game tied 89-89: Did the Sixers honestly think Garnett would miss two clutch shots in a row?
After Garnett missed the bunny, he received the ball on the left side, foul line extended, and swished the tying jumper. Your turn, Sixers.
Fourth quarter, :14.2, Sixers 89-87: Garnett might have never missed an easier shot in his life. The Big Ticket rebounded a missed floater by Terry and tried to tap it home — but his layup rolled off the rim.
Fortunately for Garnett, the Sixers missed on the other end and Green gathered the rebound. Garnett went to the timeout with his head hanging.
Fourth quarter, :49, Sixers 89-87: If one play could sum up Turner, the last one did.
Turner was isolated against Pierce at the top of the key, and as he rose for a pull-up jump shot, Pierce easily stuffed the attempt. But Turner stayed with it, gathered the miss and muscled into the paint for an off-balance layup to give Philly the lead.
Fourth quarter, 2:41, Sixers 85-84: Rather predictably, a game that started out at a feverish pace slowed down considerably as it went on. A rivalry game between two of the league’s most deliberate teams was not going to stay on course for 200-plus points for long.
The Sixers put up a lot more shots than the Celtics, which is how they were able to lead despite shooting 39 percent from the field. Philly had taken 83 shots to Boston’s 67 and committed just eight turnovers, cherishing its possessions and getting 14 extra ones off offensive rebounds.
Fourth quarter, 5:47, game tied 80-80: The Celtics had not led in the fourth quarter, but they challenged the Sixers at every turn. They forced four ties and never trailed by more than four points in the first six minutes of the quarter, and Pierce showed some bounce in his step by scoring four straight to knot the score again.
Fourth quarter, 7:39, Sixers 78-76: Rondo says he has no plans to be a coach, but the way he showed a refusal to let even one possession go to waste had all the characteristics of a coach’s micromanagement.
As the seconds wound down on a particularly awkward offensive possession, Rondo called a timeout as Garnett attempted a jumper with one second left on the shot clock. Yes, really. So do not let it be said that Rondo and the Celtics are taking the Sixers for granted.
Fourth quarter, 8:47, game tied 74-74: The Sixers needed to prove that they could pull out a close win over the veteran Celtics down the stretch. They did well in the first meeting of the season, but since then Holiday and Turner have gained attention for their individual and dual improvements. This would be a statement if either could deliver a big performance in the closing minutes to down the Celtics, who are still mighty in many opponents’ minds.
The Atlantic Division is greatly improved, with the Knicks and Nets attracting most of the attention, but the Sixers have quietly kept pace despite missing their best player to a tragic series of bowling-related injuries.
End of third quarter, Sixers 72-70: Pierce and the Celtics could not have closed the quarter much better than they did. After a horrid start that saw them fall behind by as many as seven points, the Celtics surged back and tied the game at 70-70 on a baseline dunk by Pierce, who scored five of his 20 points in the frame.
Terry, who could not throw the ball in the ocean in the first half, finally dropped his first field goal at the 8:14 mark and added a free throw to give him four whole points for the game. As Celtics fans became accustomed to seeing with Ray Allen, that low point total could be a sign of a breakout to come in the fourth quarter.
Third quarter, 2:43, Sixers 68-64: Triple-double, achieved.
Jeff Green canned a 3-pointer from the corner off a swing pass from Rondo to give Boston’s point guard his 10th assist and the statistical milestone, but not much else had gone right for the Celtics in the quarter. They managed to even out the scoring somewhat, but Turner kept up the pressure with his all-around game and Holiday started to find his stroke as momentum gradually built in Philly’s favor.
Third quarter, 9:12, Sixers 57-52: That turned around quickly. Turner and the Sixers came out on fire after halftime, rushing out on an 11-2 run that included five points from Turner. Even though Rondo picked up another assist and another block, the Celtics looked shell-shocked as a whole.
Halftime, Celtics lead 50-46: The first half belonged to Rondo, although Pierce was not too shabby either.
Rondo scored 14 points, grabbed 10 boards, dealt eight assists and blocked two shots to key a Boston offense that was clicking. The Celtics shot close to 50 percent with Pierce leading all scorers with 15 points. Once again the Celtics were solid on the glass, where they outrebounded Philly 26-22. If not for seven turnovers, it might have been a flawless half for the C’s.
Turner slowed somewhat after a fast start, scoring only a free throw after his 11-point first quarter to enter the break with 12 points to lead the Sixers. The third-year guard did have five rebounds and three assists, though, as he continued to show a penchant for doing a little bit of everything.
Second quarter, 2:49, Celtics 41-41: Rondo was dazzling fans and the Sixers, and his play translated to the box score.
With a twisting, fall-away layup that he spun low off the backboard, Rondo registered his 12th point of the game and put another touch on what was shaping up to be a memorable performance. With more than three minutes to go in the first half, Rondo had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while hounding Holiday into missing five of his seven shots.
Second quarter, 5:36, Celtics 36-35: Terry was one of the few Boston players having trouble finding his rhythm on offense. Despite taking four relatively good shots, the veteran guard missed all four looks and was scoreless in his 14th minute of action. That was a big surprise considering how effectively Terry has shot overall this season as he has worked his way into an unfamiliar surrounding in Boston.
Second quarter, 7:07, Celtics 36-34: Few big men defend Kevin Garnett better than Lavoy Allen, the second-year center out of Temple who has made Garnett’s life difficult for the past two seasons. But Garnett had success against Allen, not to mention Spencer Hawes, by hitting three of his first four shots.
Still, Garnett had his issues. He was able to track down only two rebounds and committed two turnovers in his first 10 minutes, and he did most of his damage from outside rather than down low.
End of first quarter, game tied 28-28: Paul Pierce hardly touched the ball in the opening minutes, but he was merely waiting for the right moment to bust out. Pierce scored his first basket at the 5:28 mark and proceeded to score nine more points over the next few minutes. His opposite number, Evan Turner, continues to roll along, though, scoring 11 points of his own to tie Pierce for the game-high. Rondo led everybody with eight boards, or more than half as many as Philadelphia registered as a team.
Both teams were mostly successful getting the shots they wanted — and making them — but the Sixers were better at moving the ball and taking care of it, while the Celtics were better at getting to the line. The Sixers had nine assists on their 13 field goals and committed just one turnover. The Celtics had five free throw attempts to the Sixers’ two.
First quarter, 5:39, Sixers 14-12: The Sixers are pretty bad offensively, but the Celtics made them look more than adequate in the early going. The Sixers hit half of the first dozen shots they took and did not commit a turnover in the first six-plus minutes to take an early lead.
That is no small feat for a team that averages only 99.8 points per 100 possessions, the ninth-worst rate in the league. Jason Richardson led the way with six points on 3-for-5 shooting.
6:25 p.m.: When the ball goes up, do not be surprised if nobody comes down with the miss.
This game pits two of the league’s poorest rebounding teams against each other. The Celtics’ struggles on the glass are well-documented, but the Sixers are only slightly better. Philly grabs an average of 40.8 rebounds per game, just three boards more than the Celtics, as the eighth-worst rebounding club in the league. Their leading rebounders are Thaddeus Young at 7.4 caroms per game and Evan Turner at 7.0 boards per game, but nobody else averages even six rebounds per contest. The Celtics would welcome production like that, though — Kevin Garnett leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game, followed by Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass at only 5.6 rebounds each.
The projected starting lineups are below.
8 a.m. ET: Absence makes the heart grow fonder and familiarity breeds contempt, so by the end of the weekend the Celtics and Sixers should be good and sick of each other.
The Celtics travel to Philadelphia on Friday for the opener of a two-game home-and-home set with the rival Sixers. Although back-to-backs are not unusual in the NBA – this will be the sixth one of the season for the C’s — back-to-backs against the same team during the regular season are.
Every pertinent player reportedly traveled to Philadelphia despite an illness that has been working its way around the locker room. Leandro Barbosa and Chris Wilcox were the latest victims, but both appear to be active for Friday’s game. The Sixers are dealing with more serious health issues. Andrew Bynum’s ongoing knee saga is well-documented, but Jason Richardson and Nick Young have also been hit with injuries.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m. ET.