That was a little too close for comfort, but the Boston Celtics took home their ninth win over the last 11 games with a 110-106 victory over the processing Philadelphia 76ers.
The win moved Boston to 22-14 on the season and they snapped the 76ers win streak at two as they fell to 9-25 on the season. A full box score can be found at ESPN.com, but here is tonight’s Beantown Baskets Three Pointer.
Layup: Great audition for Noel
While almost every movable assert across the NBA has been tied to the Celtics through the rumor mill at some point over the last few years, it seems like Nerlens Noel is one of those names that will never go away. While Celtic fans are thrilled to come away with the win, they might be a little more on board with a trade for Noel after this one as well. The Massachusetts native scored 13 points off the bench on 6-for-8 shooting while also grabbing eight rebounds, dishing out two assists, coming up with two steals and blocking three shots. The 76ers have a very crowded front court and none of their young guys down low really fit together so part of their “process” will eventually have to include moving one of Noel, Okafor or Embiid and Boston could really use the defense and reboudning that Noel brings to the table without having to give up all the extra assets it would cost to pry Embiid away; who might not even be on the market because of how high Philadelphia is on him to be completly honest. What exactly Noel would cost is up for speculation, but it was made clear tonight that he would be a great addition for both the present and future as a 22-year old big man.
Midrange Jumper: You really couldn’t feel good after the first quarter
The Celtics had a 25-23 lead after the first quarter, but a reasonable fan shouldn’t have felt that great about the way they were playing. Only four Celtics had scored and a lot of it was shouldered by Avery Bradley, who dropped 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting and that’s just something that isn’t sustainable for even the best players as it would have put him on pace for 56 points. This made what happened in the second quarter almost predictable. With Bradley the only Celtic playing well in the early stages of the game, he began the second quarter on the bench and everything unraveled after that as the 76ers won the frame 39-26. Even putting Bradley back on the floor midway through the quarter couldn’t save the Celtics, as his hot start had cooled off and nobody else around him had started to play well. Boston started to show life in the third quarter, when Bradley found his stroke again and came up with another 12 points. He would go on to lead the Celtics with 26 points along with nine rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Three Pointer: This is why Al Horford is here
Everybody will remember the huge corner three that Horford knocked down with 17 seconds remaining to give Boston the lead, but Horford is here for a lot more then the “clutch” moments. He scored 14 of his 19 points in the final frame and a big reason why the Celtics were even in the game at the end when he sunk the eventual game winner was becasue of his play. One of the best things about tongiht’s performance was the fact that he fought through a really crappy first half in which he was just 1-for-7 from the field and you almost forgot he was there at times. When the game is on the line, Horford will be the guy with the ball more often then not. While Isaiah Thomas will be relied on to carry the offense through most of the game, we’ve seen Stevens constantly call plays in crunch time where Horford is either taking the shot or making the decision to distribute to a teammate. Even after Horford missed a potential game winning layup against the Houston Rockets earlier in the year, Stevens has still continued to call his name over and over again when “it matters most” and it’s good to finally have a guy like that; it will really pay off in the spring as Boston looks to win their first playoff series since Doc Rivers left. You saw the offense start to go through Horford the second he reentered the game with just under eight minutes left, when he began to go on his 14 point tear down the stretch of this win.
There was a great stretch from Kelly Olynyk in the third quarter when he bated Joel Embiid into a shooting foul, made both shots from the line and then drew a charge on Embiid at the other end. Embiid had five fouls at the end of that sequence and was forced to spend extended minutes on the bench and that’s mainly when the C’s got back in the game.
Another nice Olynyk moment was him finding Horford open in the corner for that huge three at the end of the game. He had a crappy shooting night, but there were a number of little moments where he came up huge in this one as he pitched in with eight points, five assists and four rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. People always look to find something against Olynyk, but the fact that he was on the floor in that situation to begin with despite a 2-for-7 shooting night proves that Stevens trusts Olynyk to make smart basketball moves in crunch time and he delivered.
This was bound to happen at some point during the Brad Stevens era, so congrats to any Celtic who made a three pointer tonight. They finished the game with 19, with Horford’s game winner being the final one.
I mostly agree with Jae Crowder when he says fans shouldn’t cheer for opposing players, but it’s not a good look for him to show up after those comments were made and put up zero points. He did have three assists, two rebounds, two steals and two blocks so it wasn’t a useless game, but still not a great look to having him post a goose egg in the points column.
Amir Johnson came up with a real grown man’s rebound at the end of that game and it was fitting that he down with it after a gritty performance all night long. He scored 13 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked four shots.