Boston Celtics: 2013PreseasonGame4
There's little else the Celtics can pluck from their trip to Philadelphia, where Boston got frustrated early on during Monday's exhibition tilt against the 76ers and wound up on the shellacked side of a 107-75 decision at the Wells Fargo Center.
Sure, it's the preseason and the Celtics played without Kevin Garnett (or any of his typical intensity). That said, the 76ers didn't have offseason big-splash acquisition Andrew Bynum, and they didn't seem detoured in the least. Boston carelessly turned the ball over 21 times, with 14 of those giveaways coming before intermission when Philadelphia built a 14-point halftime lead.
Despite losing for the third time in four preseason games, Rivers wasn't about to flip over any tables in the visiting locker room.
"I get upset, but, listen, I'm not going to use any bullets or whatever you want to call it now," Rivers told reporters in Philadelphia. "You kind of wait. But I think it's a good lesson for us. Some of our guys, I thought, got frustrated early because other guys forgot plays or didn't know things, and I think that's a lesson too.
"You've got to be able to grind a game. We're going to play 82 regular-season games, and I guarantee you we're not going to be great in all of them. But you can still win the game if you have mental toughness. Today, I just thought we started out OK, the game was kind of close, and then things went wrong and we kind of caved in quick, and I told them that's not a good sign."
THE NITTY GRITTY
Playing without Kevin Garnett -- or any of his trademark intensity -- the Celtics slogged their way to their third preseason loss in four outings. Paul Pierce scored a team-high 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, but also had four turnovers (as did Rajon Rondo) as Boston gave the ball away early and often. Brandon Bass chipped in 11 points and six rebounds off the bench (Jared Sullinger and Darko Milicic formed the starting frontcourt). For the Sixers, Spencer Hawes put up 17 points and eight rebounds in 17:36 off the pine, while the Youngs -- Thaddeus (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Nick (14 points) -- had solid nights.
The Celtics turned the ball over 14 times in the first half and those giveaways were enough to allow the 76ers to build a 14-point lead (56-42) at intermission. Without Garnett -- and playing with the fourth starting lineup iteration in as many preseason games -- the Celtics had no continuity at either end of the floor and it showed as Philadelphia dominated the second quarter while building the double-digit cushion (and sucking out any life that Boston had previously). The Celtics came out of halftime strong, cutting their deficit in half in 90 seconds, but turnovers returned later in the third quarter and Philadelphia was up 21 after three. Boston finished with 21 turnovers overall.
Rondo made his first 11 free throws of the preseason before missing his only two attempts in Monday's game ... Milicic, who has had his right wrist taped since tweaking it last week in a practice session, appeared to aggravate the injury falling to the floor early in the third quarter. After a timeout, he stayed in the game and actually produced a left-handed dunk on the first play out of the break. He finished with six points and three rebounds over 16:19... Philly native Dionte Christmas connected on 1-of-4 shots for two points over 13:28 in his homecoming.
WHAT IT MEANS
Celtics coach Doc Rivers will have to dig deep to find any sort of redeeming quality to this one. Hey, at least no one got injured (Milicic's quick return bodes well for him). The good news: The Celtics are one game closer to the regular season and half the exhibition slate is behind them. The bad news: There's still plenty to clean up. Boston invades TD Garden for the first time this season on Tuesday night to host the Brooklyn Nets.
* EYES ON LINEUPS: Big-splash offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum has been held out of training camp for Philadelphia while rehabbing his right knee, but the 76ers' size might allow Celtics coach Doc Rivers to get a longer look at some of his bigger lineups. Maybe this is a night where we see more of the Kevin Garnett (if he suits up) and Darko Milicic pairing, particularly after the Knicks went small Saturday and forced Rivers to limit Milicic's minutes. Rivers also liked what he saw from the Paul Pierce-Jeff Green pairing and said the team can go big (with two other forward/centers) or small (with Rajon Rondo and another shooting guard), so expect more mixing and matching around those two.
* DEFENDING THE PICK-AND-ROLL: Two areas of concern from last season -- defending the pick-and-roll and opponent offensive rebounds -- reared their ugly heads Saturday night against the Knicks. Rivers put the blame on his guards for Boston's woes and expect a heavy emphasis to be put on cleaning that up entering Monday's game.
* HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: It's a homecoming for Dionte Christmas, a Philadelphia native who played his college ball at Temple. Christmas actually latched on with the 76ers' summer league team after going undrafted in 2009 and earned a camp invite with the team, but was cut before the start of the regular season. After spending the past few years overseas, Christmas is back competing for a final spot with Boston and -- fresh off being the official Philly cheesesteak tour guide -- he will have some extra incentive with friends and family filling up the Wells Fargo Center.
* CHANCE FOR YOUNGER PLAYERS: The Celtics have three games in the next four days, including a back-to-back looming Tuesday when Brooklyn visits TD Garden. Expect Rivers to balance minutes, which could mean an extended look for Christmas and the end-of-the-roster types the next couple nights. Younger players competing for a final spot (like Kris Joseph and Jamar Smith) could really help their causes if they can take what they've shown in practice and carry it over to game situations. If Garnett doesn't dress, this might also be a chance for a young big man like Fab Melo to get extended court time.
Your turn: What will you be watching for tonight? Sound off in the comments.
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