Ford Keys to the Game: 76ers 80, Celtics 84

Ford Keys to the Game

76ers 80, Celtics 84

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce hug it out after they realize they've pulled out the gritty win over Philadelphia, the Celtics' 14th straight victory.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

Paul Pierce didn’t have a great performance tonight, but he still found a way to save his team’s winning streak.

It was evident all night long that the Celtics simply weren’t in a groove. Calls were going against them, shots weren’t falling and they couldn’t find their rhythm. All of those factors snowballed and eventually left Boston in an irritated state. Pierce acknowledged as much in his postgame press conference.

“Man I got frustrated, I got a technical," said Pierce, who wasn't the only Celtic to be T'd up (KG did, too). "I know I was frustrated tonight, you know just in a game where you’re trying to get rhythm and the game is off balance and calls are being called each and every way. It’s like it’s hard to get in rhythm and it was definitely frustrating tonight.”

Luckily for he and his teammates, they had one big run in the tank tonight - despite the frustration - and they saved it for the opportune moment.

Down by four points and more than halfway through the fourth quarter, Boston’s captain stepped into a passing lane and tipped Lou Williams' pass away near midcourt for a perfect steal. Pierce recovered the ball and took it the length of the court before taking off for a soaring fast break slam – in the face of Williams.

We’ve seen dunks stir the Celtics’ pot on numerous occasions this season, and tonight was just another case that can be added to the list. Boston outscored Philadelphia 16-8 down the stretch, including that play. That's not an overly dramatic run, but the manner in which the C’s scored those points is what really matters.

Pierce’s dunk ignited Boston’s aggressiveness and the team began attacking the basket, in turn putting the pressure on Philadelphia’s defense. That mindset changed the pace of the game and sent the C’s to the free-throw line for 12 attempts over the final 4:33 of the contest. To put that number into context, Boston had attempted only seven total free throws through the first three quarters of the game; they more than doubled that number in less than five minutes.

That aggressive offense led to aggressive defense, which was exemplified by Kevin Garnett’s blocked shot on Andre Iguodala’s attempt to tie the game with 14.9 seconds remaining.

Ray Allen’s two free throws sealed the game from there, but there’s no doubt that it all started when No. 34 rocked the rim on a fast break.

Key Box Score Line

On a night in which the Celtics, who are the top-shooting team in the league, managed to make only 38.8 percent of their shots, you’d assume the box score wouldn’t hold an elite game by one of their players. Ray Allen says that’s not the case.

Allen bucked Boston’s poor shooting trend and managed to notch a game-high 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field. Yes, he made only one of his five 3-pointers, but he drilled five of his six free throws and shot 7-of-12 from inside the arc. The sharpshooter was also the top facilitator in the contest and dished out a game-high six assists. Oh, and he cashed in two free throws in the final seconds to seal the victory.

Doc Rivers said that he was forced to play Allen for way too many consecutive minutes tonight, but the box score won’t show that at all. He outshined every player on the court, and without him, Boston’s winning streak would most certainly be over.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Boston's defense limited Philadelphia to less than 20 points in three of the four quarters.
  • Paul Pierce and Von Wafer each shot 1-of-4 from downtown.
  • The Celtics attempted 15 more field goals (80) than the 76ers (65).
  • Ray Allen finished with game-highs of 22 points and six assists. He also had four rebounds.
  • Pierce and Nate Robinson each finished with five fouls.
  • Elton Brand grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and also scored 16 points.
  • Brand also was the only player to foul out of the game.
  • Kevin Garnett and Pierce both received technical fouls in the third quarter, just 1:31 apart.
  • Philadelphia assisted on only 14 baskets, which is essentially Rajon Rondo's season average (13.8 APG).
  • Both teams had four players score in double-figures.
  • Shaquille O'Neal scored 13 points to go along with a team-high nine boards.
  • All of Robinson's nine points came from behind the 3-point arc, where he shot 3-of-5.
  • Through the first three quarters, the 76ers attempted 29 free throws to the Celtics' seven. In the fourth quarter, Boston attempted 14 to Philadelphia's two.
  • The Celtics won each of the following categories: rebounds, assists, steals, turnovers, points in the paint, second chance points and fast break points.

Quote of the Night

Doc Rivers on why this winning streak is so unique: "It is, as far as I’ve been concerned, connected with. Because usually when you’re on a winning streak, everybody’s healthy. Everybody’s playing well and you’re rolling. And you can make the case it’s the exact opposite with us. Everybody’s not healthy, and key guys are out. And guys are coming in for two games, guys are missing games. And we keep doing it."