The Celtics sleepwalked out of the gate, turning the ball over in each of their first four possessions. They had seven turnovers in the quarter alone, and Philly took advantage by scoring 13 points off of Boston's miscues.
Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas helped the Celts overcome this sluggish start by scoring the first 14 points and 21 of the first 24. Crowder was aggressive throughout, finishing the quarter with 10 points and two offensive boards. Isaiah knocked down his first three shots - all of which were threes - and a pair of free throws to get up to 11 points in eight minutes.
Sixers forward Robert Covington had a perfect quarter, scorching the Celtics for 11 points on 4/4 shooting and 3/3 from downtown. This powered the Sixers to 29 first quarter points:
We're all knotted up at 29-29 after the first quarter. Isaiah Thomas already has 11 points, while Jae Crowder already has 10 of his own.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 16, 2017
Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart led the bench to a very nice second quarter showing. Olynyk had nine of his 12 first half points, Smart provided his usual services all over the court, and Terry Rozier had this storng finish off of Smart's feed:
Terry Rozier turns on the jets and rises up for the emphatic dunk! pic.twitter.com/3uwZnuBcmh— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 16, 2017
However, more of Covington's sharpshooting, sloppy Celtic passing, and easy points in the paint gave the Sixers the lead late in the half: Covington shot 7-7 from the floor and added five rebounds, Boston turned it over four more times, and Philly finished the half with 19 points off those turnovers. They doubled up Boston's points in the paint, 40-20, and outrebounded them 23-19.
The forced turnovers and second chances gave the Sixers 15 more shot attempts than the C's at the half. This perfectly neutralized Boston's 8-14 three-point shooting, leaving the score knotted up at the break:
IT already has 18 pts, and we're all tied up at 61-61 after two qtrs. Kelly Olynyk (13 pts) and Jae Crowder (11 pts) are also in dbl-figs. pic.twitter.com/if4aOxDdtm— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 16, 2017
A 12-4 opening run gave the Celtics a quick eight-point advantage. Smart had three steals in six minutes and this time, it was Boston who were able to take advantage of Philadelphia's turnovers and missed shots. Great defense through the quarter held the Sixers to just 18 points.
After getting destoryed in the paint in the first 24 minutes, the C's were getting into the paint and finishing. Boston continued to play solid basketball, but pesky Philly did not let the No. 2 seed build too much of a lead -- A 12-point Celtic lead could have been extended to become much higher, but instead they trimmed it back to eight:
You want balance? Here's balance! IT: 20 points. Smart: 17 points. Crowder/Olynyk: 16 points apiece. The C's lead 87-79 heading into the 4Q.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 16, 2017
It was not an ideal start to the fourth for Boston. Gary Washburn's tweet says it all:
#76ers scored 18 pts in the 3Q and have 16 in the first 3:04 of the 4Q. BOS 96, PHL 95 with 8:56 left.— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) February 16, 2017
Have no fear -- the Celtics stepped up their game for the remaining nine minutes. Led by Smart's ridiculous defense and Isaiah's equally ridiculous offense, Boston pushed their one-point lead up to 10 and rode that the rest of the way. Speaking of Smart's ridiculous defense, the 22-year-old had a career-high eight takeaways:
Marcus Smart now has eight steals to go along with 20 points, five assists and four rebounds.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) February 16, 2017
This steal in particular defines Smart's game real well:
Smart gets the player of the game, but it was generally a well-balanced attack: Isaiah had a "quiet" 33, Crowder added 18, Olynyk finished with 16, and Horford chipped in 12. Not to mention James Young played 22 minutes, including a bunch of crunch time, and helped out with 10 points. There you go James!
Boston will play their final game before the All-Star break tomorrow night back on the road in Chicago.
Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32
Photo by @NBA Erik Johnson 2/15/2017 10:16:00 PM Tweet Edit