Game Recap: Celtics 112, 76ers 92
When the 76ers (6-39) and the Boston Celtics (24-21) took the floor Sunday at The Center, they did so a day later than originally planned. The postponement brought on by Winter Storm Jonas, however, didn’t change the fact the Sixers were still going to have to deal with one of the better defensive units in the NBA, which Boston boasts. That factor bore itself out in the C’s 112-92 victory over the Sixers, their seventh straight in the teams’ Atlantic Division rivalry series.
Not only did the Celtics limit the Sixers to 39.3 percent shooting from the field, they managed to contain two of Brett Brown’s primary weapons. Repeatedly facing double-teams for the better part of the night, Jahlil Okafor, like many of his teammates, had trouble finding a spark. He managed two points in the opening half, and finished with 10 points overall. Ish Smith couldn’t get into rhythm against Boston’s physical, aggressive backcourt, and was held to seven points and four assists. Robert Covington turned in a prolific performance from three-point territory, matching a career-high with six triples. His 25 points led all scorers. Nerlens Noel flirted with a double-double. He tallied 12 points (6-9 fg) and nine rebounds.
Boston set the tone for the tilt via a 13-0 first quarter run. While the Sixers managed to climb back within a possession three times, the Celtics refused to yield control. They held a five-point margin going into the second period, and then widened the gap to 15 points by intermission, after having spotted the Sixers 18 points in the frame. Jae Crowder was particularly effective in keying the C’s attack in the opening half. Isaiah Thomas - by volume, the eighth-leading scorer in the NBA - did most of his damage following the break. Both shared team-high scoring honors with 20 points apiece.
Brett Brown Said - On the Sixers’ 112-92 defeat to the Boston Celtics:
“That’s not who we are. Fortunately, we got a few runs on the board previous to this game where you can say, ‘Yeah, I agree wee see what you saw.’”
Over the past 10 days, Robert Covington has recaptured the range that enabled him to end last season as the Sixers’ leading active scorer. He entered Sunday having buried 15 of his previous 34 three-point field goal attempts. In the first half against Boston, Covington didn’t miss a beat. He began the game by nailing each of his five tries from the outside, and poured in a career-best matching six triples in all. Covington’s first half flurry is captured in the video package linked below:
Notes and Quotes:
While both the greater Philadelphia and Boston regions alike were socked by snow Friday and Saturday, it was the Delaware Valley that seemed to bear the harshest brunt of Winter Storm Jonas’ force. Even the highest reports of snow accumulation in Boston - roughly 12 inches - were dwarfed by the amount of powder that slammed southeastern Pennsylvania, and parts of New Jersey and Delaware.
With the blizzard pushing back the Sixers and Celtics’ meeting from Saturday to Sunday, Brett Brown found himself losing track of time, while doing what he does best.
“It seems like an eternity since we’ve played,” said Brown, as he then jokingly asked a group of assembled reporters what day of the week Sunday was.
Brown’s additional study time only further revealed to him the strengths that Boston had shown this season.
“I think Boston’s very capable offensively, and I think Brad [Stevens] does a really good job of putting them in clever offensive situations, and it makes them really hard to guard. I still think that the key to our game is how much do we turn it over. They turn people over. But that extra day just let me pay attention even more and have extra time to try to do my job, and try to get us prepared.”
The Celtics scoring attack was multiple and balanced, as five players reached double-figures. Boston did indeed create and capitalize on turnovers as well. The Sixers committed 24 giveaways, which led directly to 25 points for the C’s.
As for how Boston handled the fallout caused by the weekend’s inclement weather, Stevens explained, “We told the guys they had to be on call [Saturday]. We exhausted all of travel options on Friday night and [Saturday], and we were fortunate that it cleared up and we were able to get in without any issues [Sunday] morning.”
With the conditions not being quite as crippling in Boston as they were in Philadelphia, the Celtics spent part of Saturday practicing, focusing on defense in particular. Based on their performance on that end of the court on Sunday, Stevens seemed to get the results he was seeking.
In trying to keep pace with a dialed-in Boston opponent, the Sixers found early success from behind the arc, opening the game by knocking down six of their first eight three-point field goal tries. Five of those triples came from Robert Covington, while the lone remaining deep ball was sunk by Hollis Thompson.
Thompson entered the Sixers’ match-up with the Celtics on the heels of one of his strongest showings of the year. Wednesday at Orlando, he tallied 17 points, his second-highest total to-date, and second double-figure scoring effort in a row. During this two-game stretch, he hit six of his 11 attempts from the outside.
"I think it’s important,” Brett Brown said of Thompson’s recent flurry. The Georgetown product has appeared in more games for Brown than any other member of the Sixers’ roster. “I think for Hollis, he’s been the longest-serving 76er, and so to see him be rewarded, and watch his continued growth and improvement, he’s really had arguably the most consistent year out of all of our wings."
Thompson has topped the Sixers in perimeter accuracy in each of his three seasons with the club, all of which have been under Brown. Thompson is delivering at a 39.7 clip from three-point range for his career.
“He sets the table all over the place,” said Brown. “He’s a wonderful leader, and he’s now being rewarded for putting the work that he has put in.”
Thompson posted five points and two rebounds Sunday.
Nik Stauskas returned to action against the Boston Celtics. He had been sidelined for the Sixers’ three previous games due to a left shoulder contusion sustained in team’s January 14th 115-111 overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls. In recent days, Stauskas said he he hadn’t experienced pain while shooting. Most of his discomfort came when passing, or trying to fight through screens.
“Yeah, it has,” Stauskas said Sunday, when asked before tip-off whether it seemed like he had been out for long. “When I got hurt, it was last Thursday, so it’s been a week and a half. Obviously, we’ve had a couple more days break in between the games that we normally have, so that’s kind of just made it feel even longer, but I needed a little bit of rest, so I feel good now."
Stauskas logged 15 minutes versus Boston, all but three of which came after intermission. The second-year guard delivered a highlight play with five and a half minutes remaining in regulation, when he zoomed to the bucket for a two-handed jam.
“I’ve been back practicing with the team,” said Stauskas, talking about the approach he took to Sunday. “Just having the confidence being able to go through that, I think just come into the game and pretend that everything’s ok, and just play.”
The 76ers conclude a stretch of back-to-back home games by hosting the Phoenix Suns (14-31) on Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST at The Center. For the past month and a half, Phoenix has been trying to emerge from a substantial rut. That the Suns have managed just two wins in 17 games since December 20th has been problematic enough. Adding to the team’s woes during this stretch, however, have been injuries and staff changes. In Phoenix’s 111-104 home setback to the Sixers on December 26th, guard Eric Bledsoe, the club’s leading scorer, sustained a left meniscus tear, and has subsequently been ruled out for the rest of the season. Also on the heels of that game, Phoenix dismissed two assistant coaches from Jeff Hornacek’s bench. When last in action on Saturday, the Suns snapped a six-game losing streak by defeating the Atlanta Hawks, 98-95, on Archie Goodwin’s game-winning shot. The triumph capped a three-game homestand. Beginning with Tuesday’s stop in Philadelphia, Phoenix will play four in a row on the road.