BOSTON — The Celtics need to beat the teams they can beat if they are to have any shot at a playoff bid, and this week, they’ve done exactly that.
After dispatching the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets, Boston dropped the hammer Friday on the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, never trailing en route to a 107-96 win at TD Garden.
HOT AT THE START
Avery Bradley came out of the gate like he was shot out of a cannon, scoring seven points in the first 90 seconds to give the Celtics an early 7-0 lead. Boston never looked back from there, leading 29-15 after the first quarter and 60-42 at half.
It was far from a one-man effort, too. In fact, Bradley didn’t score his eighth point until the 4:30 mark of the second quarter. Instead, the Celtics seemed to get offense from everywhere. Bradley and Jared Sullinger had reached double figures by halftime, but Tyler Zeller also had nine, Marcus Thornton had eight, and Jae Crowder and Evan Turner both had six.
Perhaps more impressively, those six players went a combined 64.7 percent (22-for-34) from the floor through the first two quarters.
A sloppy third quarter ensued — Boston went just 4-for-19, and Philadelphia cut the lead from 26 to six just before the end of the frame — but five quick points seemed to put the Celtics in good position to open the fourth. That didn’t turn out to be the case, as the Sixers again rallied, cutting the deficit to three with eight minutes to play.
It wasn’t until the final few minutes that the Celtics were able to pull away. Sullinger nearly recorded a triple-double in the win, finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists. Bradley added 16 points, and Thornton and Zeller each chipped in with 16.
Marcus Smart and Evan Turner both struggled shooting the ball but played well in other facets, combining for 15 boards and 14 assists.
If this game proved one thing, it was that the 76ers are not a particularly good basketball team — which, in their ongoing plan to tank harder than anyone ever has tanked before, is exactly what they want to be. With Michael Carter-Williams sidelined with a toe injury, the Sixers looked disjointed on offense for much of the night, finishing with nearly as many turnovers (17) as assists (22), and shot just 48.4 percent (15 of 31) from the foul line.
WELCOME BACK, KID
This likely wasn’t the Garden debut rookie Tim Frazier had envisioned back in training camp. Frazier signed with the Celtics as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State and spent the first three-plus months of the season with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League, but the Sixers scooped him up Wednesday, signing him to a 10-day contract.
So, there the young point guard was Friday, making his NBA debut against the team he’d hoped to one day play for. Frazier saw a good deal of playing time for a Sixers team dealing with the aforementioned lack of point guard depth, finishing with five points, 11 assists and five rebounds in 35 minutes.
Up next: The Celtics head to Milwaukee on Saturday for a battle with the Bucks.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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