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Heading into the Boston Celtics Friday night prime time game with the Philadelphia 76ers, the hope of moving into first place in the Atlantic division with a victory gave optimistic fans a good feeling in what has been a tough season.
Unfortunately, by the end of a disappointing 99-86 loss to the 76ers, the biggest story was not the game but the health of Celtics shooting forward Mickael Pietrus.
With 5:08 remaining in the first half, Pietrus was hit by Lou Williams while driving to the basket, causing his head to snap back as he took a hard fall to the floor. He was eventually removed from the court on a stretcher after ten minutes of lying on the court. It was a scary moment for everyone involved with the play, as both teams looked on with fearful looks after witnessing the play.
If Pietrus is lost for a significant amount of time it will be a tough loss for the Celtics, given the way injuries have plagued the team this year, including the losses of Jermaine O’Neil and Jeff Green.
As for the game itself, the Celtics played well early on before the Pietrus injury seemed to lead to them hitting a wall. Their offense looked extremely sharp to start, especially Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass. The trio combined for 27 of the team’s first 32 points, but in the end the lack of contributions from the rest of the roster hurt Boston.
Outside of those three, no Celtics player scored more than six points, although point guard Rajon Rondo did have 17 assists.
Defensively, though, the Celtics fell apart in the second half. There seemed to be a lack of intensity as the speed and youth of the 76ers tore apart any efforts by the C’s. After trailing by as much as ten points in the first half, Philadelphia keyed their comeback by outscoring Boston 37-17 in the third quarter.
Six Philadelphia players ended up in double figures, including Elton Brand ,who had 20 points. Thaddeus Young and Williams combined for 31 off the bench, as compared to the 18 from Boston’s entire bench.
The Celtics missed an opportunity to jump all the way to fourth in the Eastern Conference, instead remaining in seventh as the season winds down. For now the team will return to Boston, as Pietrus stays overnight in a hospital for more testing and the team and fans eagerly await word on his status.
The Celtics host the Washington Wizards on Sunday.