Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo Deals Out 17 Assists in Losing Effort to Sixers

Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo Deals Out 17 Assists in Losing Effort to SixersEnd of game, 99-86: Rajon Rondo handed out 17 assists but his dishing was not enough to avoid the Celtics' second decisive loss to the Sixers this season.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett each had 20 points, adding nine rebounds and eight rebounds, respectively. Elton Brand led the Sixers with 20 points while Spencer Hawes came through with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Fourth quarter, 2:00, Sixers 99-84: As if to drive home the Celtics' sub-par play in the fourth quarter, Williams looked stepped back and drilled a jump shot without a defender within six feet of him.

Williams was one of six Sixers players to score in double figures. Only three Celtics could make the same claim, and nobody else in a Boston uniform was within four points of double figures.

Rondo got up to 17 assists, but they were mostly of easy passes to standstill jump shooters. Rondo's assist total really should not indicate a point guard who created a lot of easy layup opportunities.

Fourth quarter, 8:02, Sixers 88-72: Grasping for something to spark a run, Rivers opted to start JaJuan Johnson at power forward to begin the fourth quarter.

Johnson did not seem to do much but help the Sixers build their lead. Johnson missed his first two shots and watched as Thaddeus Young scored a reverse layup to push Philly's lead to 16 points.

No matter how many 7-footers the Celtics add, their continued ineffectiveness on the boards will not change until the entire team attacks the glass. The Sixers are a perfect example of that, with Turner, Iguodala and Williams all tallying at least four rebounds from the perimeter. It is not hard to see why Philadelphia held a 41-28 rebounding edge, 13-2 on the offensive glass.

End of third quarter, Sixers 80-66: Remember those zero turnovers in the first quarter? That became a distant memory for the Celtics, who turned the ball over 12 times over the next two quarters and as a result trailed by a wide margin heading into the final quarter.

Iguodala and Brand took control for the Sixers, leading an 11-0 run while the Celtics went through nearly four minutes without a basket. Holiday knocked down two free throws to give the Sixers their largest lead of the game at 14 points.

Pierce and Garnett kept scoring, but not at the same efficiency they did in the first half. Rondo got up to 15 assists with only three turnovers, but his options clearly became limited as Philly amped up its defensive pressure.

The Sixers outscored the Celtics 37-17 in the third.

Third quarter, 3:02, Sixers 70-64: The Andre Iguodala Naysayers Club can feel free to air their beefs now. The Sixers forward made them look silly over a roughly two-minute stretch.

Marquis Daniels, thrust into duty due to the injuries to Pietrus and Allen, hit a short jumper to give the Celtics the lead at 64-63. Then Iguodala took over. Iggy fed Brand for a short jumper to put Philly back into the lead, then threw down a putback dunk to stretch the Sixers' lead to three points.

Iguodala doubled that advantage with a 3-pointer, bringing much of the capacity crowd to its feet.

Defense, unselfish basketball and the ability to occasionally knock down an outside shot. Yup, it sure is easy to see why some Sixers fans dislike Iggy so much. Not.

Third quarter, 6:47, Sixers 61-60: Brandon Bass and Rajon Rondo opened the second half as though defense was optional. Chances are Doc Rivers never put such a thing in the second-half game plan.

Rondo stood by as Holiday streaked right in front of him for a cutting layup. Rondo then failed to pick up his opposite number after Holiday grabbed an offensive rebound, leading to an easy layup.

Bass was caught flat-footed when Elton Brand cut right across the middle of the lane and received a pass for a shot jumper that gave the Sixers the lead.

Halftime, Celtics 49-43: As we await word on Pietrus' status, the Celtics could have some on-court problems on their hands in the second half.

Without Pietrus, the Celtics lost their only healthy backcourt player who can stretch the defense. Pierce will be Boston's only long-range shooting threat in the second half, which should make it easier for the Sixers to collapse on Garnett and Pierce in isolations and to cut down on Rajon Rondo's driving lanes.

The Good: Pierce played a team-high 20:23 and scored 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting with seven rebounds. He was perfect from the 3-point line (2-for-2) and from the charity stripe (3-for-3). … Garnett went 7-for-12 from the field for 14 points. He added three assists and no turnovers. … Rajon Rondo only took two shots but dished out 10 assists with two turnovers. He challenged Jrue Holiday, who picked up three personal fouls. … Spencer Hawes might not look like a key big man, but that's exactly what he is for these Sixers. Hawes scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds, although the Celtics were able to limit Hawes' ability to make plays with his passing from the high post.

The Bad: Evan Turner has been a mystery for much of the season. He defended and rebounded well while Philadelphia had its greatest success, then came alive offensively this month. He's fallen back into a disappearing act of late and missed three of his four shots in the first half while picking up two personal fouls.

The So-so: The Sixers count on Lou Williams to give them a scoring punch off the bench, and that's typically what he does. The 6-foot-2 guard from South Gwinnett High School had trouble with Avery Bradley's defense, though, going just 2-for-7 from the field.

Second quarter, 1:40, Celtics 44-43: Pietrus' injury did not do much to stifle the intensity of this rivalry. Within four minutes of Pietrus being carted off, Hollins and Sixers coach Doug Collins picked up technical fouls.

Hollins has a something of a reputation to mixing it up sometimes, so it was fitting that he picke up a tech in his first minute in green.

Pietrus update, 9:06 p.m.: Pietrus was strapped to the stretcher and wheeled off the court. Polite applause from the Philly crowd.

What a tough time for Ryan Hollins to make his Celtics debut. The newly signed center replaced Pietrus and hit one of the two free throws that were meant for Pietrus.

Second quarter, 5:08, Celtics 39-38: The Celtics fumbled the ball and put up bricks to allowed the Sixers to come back and briefly tie the game, but that was the least of Boston's worries.

Pietrus, who started while Ray Allen nurses a sore left ankle, got tangled up with Lou Williams on a drive to the hoop and went to the floor hard. Pietrus' head appeared to snap back when he hit the deck and he immediately grabbed the back of his head.

A stretcher was brought out for Pietrus, but he was not immediately moved.

Second quarter, 7:25, Celtics 38-34: Will Smith was shown on the video board and the crowd gave him a round of applause, as they should. Mr. Blockbuster is a part-owner of his hometown Sixers.

Second quarter, 8:41, Celtics 38-30: Mickael Pietrus came to play in his fifth start of the season. Often content to lurk outside for 3-pointers, Pietrus went strong to the basket on three occasions. One of those, a dribble drive in the first quarter, was blocked, but the second ended with an emphatic one-handed dunk.

Pietrus was not happy when he attacked the basket on a fastbreak but did not draw a foul call on Evan Turner.

Pietrus' aggressiveness aside, on a couple of possessions early in the second quarter Garnett and Tony Battie matched up. Their combined age is 71 years old. It's hard to imagine a more seasoned matchup in the league other than Steve Nash-Derek Fisher (76 years old).

Can you think of any?

End of first quarter, Celtics 32-26: Yet again, the Celtics got off to a blistering pace against a young team that likes to get out and run. Unlike similar games against the Warriors, Kings, Nuggets and Bucks, however, the pace of this game doesn't seem to be cause for concern.

As explained in the pregame, the Celtics' ability to score and score often will be pivotal to shutting down Philadelphia's transition game. Whereas the fast pace of the Kings game, for example, was dire given the Celtics' tendency to wear down, as long as the Celtics can keep hitting shots, they will force the Sixers to score in the halfcourt.

That's not the Sixers' strength. Lou Williams highlighted that by dribbling until late in the shot clock on Philly's final possession of the first quarter. Williams is the Sixers' leading scorer, but the Sixers are not at their best when any of their players play one-on-one.

The Celtics shot 13-for-21 from the field in the first half (Garnett was a perfect 4-for-4) and did not commit a turnover, shutting down Philadelphia's two primary methods of generating offense.

First quarter, 2:56, Celtics 26-18: Pierce wasn't the only player to boast a hot hand for the Celtics. Elton Brand curiously chose to play off Brandon Bass, and the Celtics forward delivered three automatic jumpers.

Bass also fared well on two pick-and-roll attempts by the Sixers. Playing the pick and roll is supposedly one of Bass' weaknesses, but he did an effective job hedging on the dribbler. He also hauled down a game-high four rebounds in the early going.

First quarter, 5:58, Celtics 17-9: A jumper by Kevin Garnett earlier in the first quarter did not beat the shot clock buzzer, as it previously appeared, so the refs took two points off the board for Boston.

First quarter, 5:58, Celtics 19-9: The Sixers found their victim on the Celtics, and it was Paul Pierce. Pierce, who has been susceptible to hard cuts, particularly backdoor, was clearly in the Sixers' scouting report. Iguodala beat Pierce on a baseline cut for a one-handed dunk and then picked up a foul on Pierce when Pierce tried to recover and prevent another cut by Iguodala.

Pierce more than made up for his defensive shortcomings by nailing his first four shots, though. He swished 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to push the Celtics ahead by 10.

7:55 p.m.: First team to 100 points wins?

The Sixers are the best defensive team in the league by virtually any measure. They allow the lowest opponent field goal percentage and hold opponents to the lowest points per game in the league. They also boast the best defensive efficiency rating, which measures points allowed per 100 possessions, in the NBA.

Paradoxically, the best indicator of how Philadelphia's defense is working might be their own point total. With no defined No. 1 scorer, the Sixers thrive off turnovers and defensive stops to get out on the break. As a result, their best defensive efforts come in games they score 100 points or more.

In their current disappointing stretch of basketball, the Sixers have scored 100 points or more in five of their last 12 games. Those five games were also the only games they won in that span.

The Celtics' inability to hit shots hurt them at both ends of the floor in their first meeting with the Sixers. Boston shot just 35 percent from the field, making it easy for Philly to get out and run. The Sixers had 24 assists on their 43 field goals in that game, with many of those assists coming via transition layups.

7:30 p.m.: The Celtics were looking forward to adding another fresh body in Ryan Hollins, but they certainly weren't planning on the addition coming at the expense of one of their core players.

The tweaked ankle that has nagged Ray Allen will finally take the shooting guard out of the lineup. Mickael Pietrus will slide into Allen's starting spot Friday against the Sixers.

Hollins should be available off the bench for Boston.

The probable starting lineups are below.

Celtics
Kevin Garnett
Brandon Bass
Paul Pierce
Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo

Sixers
Spencer Hawes
Elton Brand
Andre Iguodala
Evan Turner
Jrue Holiday 

1 p.m.: When the Celtics embarked on their current road trip two weeks ago, many predicted doom and gloom. The eight-game gantlet was widely expected to be the stretch in which the creaky Celtics finally crumbled.

Instead, the Celtics went 4-3 and have a chance to assume first place in the Atlantic Division with a win Friday in Philadelphia.

The Sixers (26-21) have held first place in the division for most of the season, but their mediocre March has given the Celtics (25-21) new life. The Sixers are 5-6 in the month and have lost four of their last five games, putting their hold on the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference in jeopardy.

Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. from the Wells Fargo Center.

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