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It would not be a bad thing if Boston gets these guys in the first round. In what could have been a preview of a potential first round matchup between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday night, the Celtics showed why they would be in favor of that matchup. The Celtics came away with the 99-82 victory after pulling away in the second half led by Rajon Rondo.
After being up by only four points at the half, Boston out-scored Philadelphia 45-32 in the second half to get it’s 54th win of the season. The Celtics are now 54-23 on the year and are 31-8 at home. The 76ers fell to 40-38 on the year and 15-26 away, but the team’s playoff spot is already secured.
Aside from the victory, Boston also got some more good news as Nenad Krstic was able to return from a knee injury suffered last week. Krstic had eight points (4-for-5 shooting) and six rebounds in 14 minutes of action. The Celtics are without Shaquille O’Neal for the time being so it was encouraging to have Krstic back in the lineup. It also doesn’t hurt to have Jermaine O’Neal back as well. Head Coach Doc Rivers knew before the game that without Shaq he needs for Jermaine and Krstic to contribute in the frontcourt in order for the team to do well.
“We have to have one of the O’Neals,” Rivers said. “And then Krstic has to be healthy. If we have that, we have size.”
Shaq’s calf strain could potentially keep him out for the rest of the regular season, but Rivers knows that it’s also important for him to get some playing time before the playoffs start. If the Tuesday’s contest is any indication on how the first round is going to go, then the Celts might be pretty well off, even if the team isn’t fully healthy.
Rondo had another great game and really got the team involved. Since sitting out the game against Minnesota a little over a week ago, Rondo has had assists of 8, 14, 5, 14, and 13. The 13 assists came Tuesday night along with the 16 points on 6-for-14 shooting and four rebounds. When Rondo is sharing the ball and really controlling the tempo of the game is when the C’s are most dominant, and that was shown yet again against the 76ers. In the three games that Rondo has had 13 assists or more the team has won the game. Boston lost the other two games when he only had eight and five assists.
Also having a good game was Paul Pierce with 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting while adding seven boards and four assists. Kevin Garnett only played 21 minutes but had 14 points off 6-for-10 shooting and three rebounds. Ray Allen quietly chipped in 13 points in 35 minutes.
Evan Turner had the big night for the 76ers, and it came from off the bench. He was able to score 21 points off 9-for-14 shooting while adding five assists and three rebounds in 33 minutes. Turner has struggled in his rookie season to earn minutes after he had a hard time finding his shot in the beginning of the year but seemed to have felt comfortable shooting in Tuesday’s contest. The last time Turner scored in double figures was on March 12th against the Milwaukee Bucks (10 points).
Passing the ball! The Celtics had 29 assists to the 76ers’ 17, and that made all the difference. That all started with Rondo and it really translated in good team basketball. Since the C’s passed the ball so well, each player was able to get the easy shot and that is why as a team Boston shot 52.6%. Philadelphia shot 39.3%.
Allowing offensive rebounds. The Celtics didn’t do much wrong in this game but the team did allow 14 offensive boards while collecting only nine themselves. Also, turning over the ball 15 times in a game isn’t bad but it’s not good either. In comparison, Philly only turned it over 11 times. Excluding J. O’Neal, the Celtics’ starters turned it over 12 times between the four of them. O’Neal didn’t have any turnovers in his 12 minutes.
Boston will have a tough test awaiting, as the Celtics will head to Chicago to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls on Thursday night. The C’s are 2-1 against the Bulls this season, but those two wins both came while at home. The two teams last met on January 8, when MVP-Candidate Derrick Rose dropped 36 points on the Celtics for an 11-point victory for Chicago. Rose isn’t slowing down, as he is averaging 25.1 points per game for the year to go along with 7.9 assists. The Bulls are also healthy for what seems like the first time all season, so it’s going to be a tough test for the Celtics. Boston is currently three games behind Chicago for best record in the East.