addByline("Marc D'Amico", "Celtics.com", "Marc_DAmico");
LONDON – Transatlantic travel doomed the Celtics Thursday night in London – but thankfully, only for a half.
Boston compiled yet another comeback victory by downing Philadelphia 114-103 during an NBA Global Games showdown at The O2 Arena. The Celtics trailed by as many as 22 points midway through the second quarter before finding their rhythm and dominating the final 30 minutes of the contest.
Kyrie Irving chalked the slow start up to “cobwebs.” Others would call it rust after four straight non-game days, including a tiresome travel day to London. Whatever it was, the Celtics couldn’t keep up with Philadelphia early on.
A groggy group of C’s sleepwalked through the first 18 minutes of the contest. They consistently made poor decisions, they misfired from the field, and they displayed no semblance of the league-leading defense that has strangled opponents this season.
Simply put, Boston didn’t look like itself.
Said Brad Stevens, “We were behind a step, it seemed like, a lot in the first half.”
Then, in the blink of a British eye, it seemed, they were two steps ahead.
Midway through the second quarter, the Celtics started to look like the Celtics again. They played with consistent effort, they moved the ball, they drained open shots, and their defense tightened its grip. It took only 14-plus minutes for them to turn their 22-point deficit into a six-point lead, at 74-68, thanks to a 47-19 run, during which they held the Sixers without a field goal for the final 4:37 of the second quarter.
“We just made adjustments, cut it down to nine at halftime, picked up our pace,” Irving explained. “The last five minutes, four minutes in the second quarter, we just did a great job of taking it possession by possession, and guys’ legs started gearing back up.”
Once the joints were oiled, there was no slowing them down.
Boston shot 60.0 percent from the field during the third quarter, all while limiting the Sixers to 38.9 percent shooting. Seven Celtics players logged an assist during the period, including all five starters, while Philadelphia totaled only five assists as a team.
“I thought our guys looked really good in that third quarter, early part of the fourth,” Stevens observed.
As the Celtics have done throughout this season, they refused to be rattled while facing a large deficit. Thursday marked the team’s fifth comeback win of the season after trailing by at least 17 points, and the second in its last six games after trailing by at least 22 points.
“We stayed the course, and we’ve done that all year,” Stevens said. “We’ve come back before. There was no real panic, but we had to play a lot better.”
And they did.
Five Celtics scored 13 or more points during the win, including a team-high 21 out of Irving and 19 off the bench from Marcus Morris. Boston shot 57.1 percent from the field during the second half, all while limiting Philadelphia to just 36.6 percent shooting.
The victory marked the Celtics’ seventh straight, and they became the first team in the league to reach 34 wins this season.
It certainly didn’t appear as if Boston would be extending its winning streak during the early-moments of this global basketball event. The Celtics were covered in cobwebs, but they shook themselves free and completed their business trip across the Atlantic with a victory.