Ford Keys to the Game: 76ers 82, Celtics 99
76ers 82, Celtics 99
A close game at halftime quickly turned into a blowout, and then it turned back to a close game again. That was when Doc Rivers made the peculiar decision to go with his bench, and the move paid immediate dividends.
Boston led 54-50 at halftime but swiftly bumped that lead up to 13 by scoring the first nine points of the second half. Kevin Garnett keyed that spurt with three jump shots that capped his scoring night at 14 points.
The 76ers quickly answered Boston’s run with one of their own, a 10-1 spurt, to cut that lead back down to just four with 4:02 remaining in the third period. After Elton Brand’s jumper that ended that run fell through the net, Doc Rivers called for an immediate timeout.
This is a moment when you would assume Rivers would call on his starters to answer Philadelphia’s play and rebuild the lead, but the crafty coach decided to stick to his rotation and throw in two subs. During that timeout, Jeff Green and Delonte West replaced Ray Allen and Glen Davis, which left a fivesome of Green, West, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Nenad Krstic on the floor. In other words, Rivers relied heavily on his reserves - three of them - to help turn this game back around.
They helped to do exactly that.
The first bucket after Rivers’ timeout came from West, who drilled a 14-foot, step-back jumper to bump the lead back up to six. Green went on to steal an Evan Turner pass during Philadelphia’s ensuing possession and then dished the ball off to Pierce for an easy layup. Philadelphia did get a shot off on its next possession, but Elton Brand missed that 16-foot jumper and Rondo pulled in the rebound.
That board, coupled with the next possession, gave the C’s an opportunity to push their lead back into double-digits, and Krstic helped deliver that cushion. Krstic, playing in his first action since Thursday, sealed his defender off in the paint and Pierce hit him with a pass. The 7-foot center then spun and tossed up a hook shot from five feet out and drew nothing but net to put the C’s ahead 70-60 with 2:10 remaining in the third period.
Rivers tossed two reserves onto the floor when the game was in the balance, and that move proved to be genius. The five-man combination that Rivers put his trust in turned that four-point lead back into a 10-point advantage in a matter of just 1:49 of playing time. It was a brilliant move by Boston’s coach, and without it, we may have wound up with yet another nail-biter between these two possible playoff foes.
Key Box Score Line
In a game that was the epitome of team play for the Boston Celtics, only one player was able to notch a double-double. His name is Rajon Rondo, and he had a spectacular night despite limited playing time.
Rondo finished tonight’s game with 16 points, which trailed only Paul Pierce’s 18 for the team high, and shot 6-of-14 from the field. He also made all four of his free throw attempts to help accrue those points.
Boston’s point guard also helped his offense to operate with precision, as he dictated the flow of his team's play en route to a game-high 13 assists. In comparison, no Philadelphia player dished out more than five dimes tonight. Rondo also managed to chip in a solid four rebounds as well as a steal.
All of those numbers were notched while playing less than 32 minutes of basketball, which is more than five minutes behind his season average. Rondo dominated this game while he was on the floor, and that’s typically a sign that the Celtics played a great game. It’s no coincidence that they blew out the 76ers for the first time this season with Rondo’s performance in tow.
Box Score Nuggets
- Boston assisted on 29 of its 40 field goals in the game.
- The 76ers shot just 39.3 percent from the field in the game.
- Evan Turner scored a game-high 21 points and also notched a team-high five assists.
- Philadelphia scored only 32 points in the second half.
- No player in the game attempted more than 14 field goals.
- Both teams shot 4-of-10 from 3-point range.
- Paul Pierce led the Celtics in scoring with 18 points.
- Nine Celtics scored between six and 18 points, including five who notched either six, seven, eight or nine.
- Rajon Rondo dished out a game-high 13 assists in less than 32 minutes of play.
- Ray Allen missed as many free throws (2-of-4) as he did field goals (5-of-7).
- Pierce shot 3-of-4 from downtown.
- Nenad Krstic grabbed three offensive rebounds and three defensive rebounds.
- Boston had six players block a shot and five players grab a steal.
- Jeff Green and Elton Brand tied for the game-high in blocks with three.
- Brand was the only Philadelphia player to block a shot.
- Green and Pierce tied for the team-high in rebounds with seven apiece.
- Boston committed four more turnovers (15) than Philadelphia (11), but gave up five less points (seven points) off of those turnovers than the Sixers did off of theirs (12 points).
- Three Philadelphia players grabbed at least two steals, while zero Celtics players grabbed more than one.
- Both teams scored 46 points in the paint.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on Ray Allen's shooting: "Ray never lost his confidence; he just couldn’t make a shot. You know, Ray is shooting anything leather. He is. He’s not going to lose confidence."