I'm sure that may of my readers were glad to see my Celtics blogs disappear after the drubbing my beloved C's took at the hands of the hated Los Angeles Lakers. Their 19 game winning streak disappeared and was replaced by a losing streak amid a 2-7 nine game stretch lasting from Christmas until January 11th. During that time, the mentally and physically fatigued Celtics were having trouble trying to put it back together. It seems that have managed to turn the corner.
February 3rd, they faced the young, scrappy and athletic Philadelphia 76ers squad they'd previously blown out. This time they were without starting All Star PF Kevin Garnett and on the road with an 11 game winning streak. The Celtics got out to a fast start behind the hot shooting of Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. The speed and deft passing of an aggressive Rajon Rondo had the young Philly squad on their heels as they exploded out to a huge lead and end the 1st quarter with an exclamation point: BOS 32 PHI 20.
Once Rajon Rondo left the game, the Celtics began to walk the ball up the court while the Sixers continued to run. Coupled with the bigs rotation being shortened by the loss of Kevin Garnett and Brian Scalabrine with the emergence of Reggie Evans (8 pts 10 reb 2 stl in 24 mins) and the scrappyness of Thaddeus Young and Samuel Dalembert led to the Celtics getting into serious foul trouble. Andre Miller took full advantage of the situation and the Sixers took the lead on the lethargic Celtics.
The Celtics put their starters back in the game and while they managed to close the gap and take a slim lead before the half (50-49 BOS) it was apparent that the Sixers weren't going away. Rajon Rondo (20 pts, 5 reb & 8 ast) continued to penetrate and Glen "Big Baby" Davis (12 pts 11 reb) came up with big play after big play in crunch time. It was a nip and tuck battle all throughout the 3rd quarter as the Celtics and 76ers traded shots and leads. The Sixers kept going to the basket and got key offensive rebounds (and free throws) while the Celtics hit big basket after big basket. The 3rd quarter ended: PHI 70 BOS 69.
The 4th quarter was more of the same as both the Sixers and Celtics dug in. The scoring was fast and furious (no Vin Diesel) in the 4th as the Sixers could sense the game was up for grabs. Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala (22 pts 6 reb 6 ast) pushed the tempo and took what seemed like a commanding lead in the late minutes of the contest. The Celtics were down by a considerable margin with about 6 minutes left in the contest before they began roaring back behind Paul Pierce's clutch play (29 pts 7 reb 6 ast) and Ray Allen's timely shooting down the stretch. Ray Allen's deep trey tied the game @ 97-97 with 30.5 left in the game.
The 76ers calmly called a timeout and drew up a play. They came out of the timeout, moved the ball around and eventually they got the shot they wanted. Andre Iguodala calmly stroked a long jumper with 6.8 seconds left on the clock to give the Sixers a 99-97 lead. He then made the terminal error of doing the big balls dance that Sam Cassell made famous across the league. Remember when Kobe Bryant did it and Roger Mason Jr. won the game for the Spurs? It didn't take Nostradamus to predict what would happen next.
Doc Rivers drew up a play where Ray Allen would pass to Paul Pierce. If everyone converged on Paul Pierce he was to draw them away while Ray Allen flashed open and Big Baby set a screen. Pierce would hit Ray in the corner for three if he was open, if not drive and try to get to the hole to tie the game. The Sixers called a timeout and Doc wanted to change the play but Rondo and Ray said "No!". Doc listened and went with it. Ray Allen passed to Paul who drew three defenders while Ray flashed open. Pierce hit a wide open Ray Allen (23 pts on 9-18 shooting (3-8 from 3 pt range) with a perfect pass while Big Baby set the screen. Perfect execution. *Swish!* 100-99. I love it when a plan comes together! © Hannibal Smith
The Boston Celtics have now won 12 straight games and are 41-9 (.820) on the season coming into the Clash Of The Titans rematch game on February 5th @ 8 PM in TD Banknorth Garden *wait for it!* the only Garden that matters in the NBA (Sorry y'all! No one else but me would write that). Regardless of what happens in the game Thursday night I'll do a follow up post in Thursday's blog spot and do my regular review blog on Friday.