Of course this was a heartbreaker for the Philadelphia 76ers. The team didn't squeeze everything out of what remains a very talented roster, but it did play with a passion and quickness that we haven't seen much of in Philly this season. There was ball movement (though not all the time), quick decisions (though not allt he time), and smart play offensively (though not all the time). And the Celtics, frankly, weren't entirely up to the challenge early on.
I don't know if I'd blame that lethargy, or lethargy relative to Boston's usual panache, on the fact that the C's were playing the second of a back to back. They just seemed a little off for most of the game. But the Celtics executed when needed, they forced the Sixers into tough shots, and were on the winning end of a series of traded baskets down the stretch of what was really an entertaining ballgame. Doc Rivers' misdirection play at the buzzer allowed for a lay in for Kevin Garnett(notes), the Boston win, and further proof that nobody calls out of bounds plays like Doc Rivers does. Move over Larry Brown, tell Gregg Popovich the news.
14 and six rebounds with three blocks and two steals for KG, who was terrific defensively. A needed 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Glen Davis(notes), as Paul Pierce(notes) (3-8 shooting) was kind of "bleh" throughout. And Rajon Rondo(notes) came through with a brilliant 19 points, 14 assists, three steals and three turnovers; but he sat just 45 seconds. In the second half of a back-to-back, after defending like Mark Jackson in the first game of the set. Worrying.
Seven players in double figure minutes for Philly, and all seven hit double-figure points as everyone got their turn. There was still way, way too much one-on-one play, though. Too much dribbling and standing around, and what's unfortunate is that this was one of the Sixers' better showings in this area in 2010-11.
Avery Johnson was pretty cheery in the post game interviews following this loss, which is a good thing. He's aware of his situation with these young Nets, there wasn't a lot of bad blood to be found as Avery coached his first game in Dallas since being let go a couple of years ago, and the Mavsies were just the better team when they needed to be.
Jose Juan Barea(notes) was the man in this one, he ran the Mavericks' show so well that Jason Kidd(notes) actually sat out the final 14 and a half minutes in the win. Barea missed four of his five shot attempts, but he also dished 13 assists (seven in the second half, as Kidd sat, so it wasn't some fourth quarter rush), and Shawn Marion(notes) always seemed to be open (18 points off the bench).
New Jersey lost Devin Harris(notes) with a shoulder sprain in the first half, and though Terrence Williams(notes) had his moments finding the open man, there just wasn't enough movement or penetration to mount a game-changing run. The effort was there, but Dallas had this all along. 24 and eight rebounds for Brook Lopez(notes) in the loss.
The Orlando Magic, championship contenders though they may be, clearly have some holes. And the team's sluggish play of late has obviously emphasized those holes. Dwight Howard(notes), save for last night, struggles to consistently score when guarded one-on-one. Jameer Nelson(notes) is a fine, borderline All-Star (at times) playmaker at a position where a knockout playmaker is needed. Vince Carter(notes) disappears, and Rashard Lewis(notes) never showed up to begin with.
But last night? I just don't want to read too much into. This team still looks sluggish, sick, and a step behind. So give Portland credit for traipsing all over these Magic, especially in that second half, but understand that (though the worrying traits Orlando exhibited are still there when the team is at full strength), things probably won't get this bad again.
Until then, go Portland.
Andre Miller(notes) was obviously the key, dropping 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the win, and Wes Matthews' activity helped. It wasn't the team's finest all-around showing, but given the circumstances, it was a great win.
How they build on this is anyone's guess. Here's hoping for the season-changing turnaround.