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It felt a bit like a baseball series. The Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 92-79, on Saturday in Boston, a night after losing to them by one in overtime in Philadelphia, 95-94.
Rajon Rondo averaged a triple-double in the two contests with 11.5 points, 12.5 assists, and 11 rebounds per game. Rondo also recorded 6 steals and 3 blocks over both games.
Thaddeus Young led the 76ers with 22 points on Saturday and with 17 points and 12 rebounds on Friday. Evan Turner torched the Celtics for 26 points and 10 rebounds in game one, but was held to just 13 points on 6-for-16 shooting in game two.
Rondo had a chance to win the game in regulation on Friday, but his step back jumper over Jrue Holiday hit the back of the rim and bounced out. Down one in overtime, Rondo took a hand-off from Kevin Garnett on the baseline to attempt what appeared to be an open, game winning layup. Instead, Rondo inexplicably tried to pull up for a floater and slipped on the floor as time expired.
The Celtics had a chance to take both of these games, a two game lead on the Sixers, and a second place tie with Brooklyn in the Atlantic division, but Rondo’s slip up, missed open threes by Courtney Lee and Jason Terry, and missed layups by Garnett and Paul Pierce late doomed the Celtics.
The Celtics defense showed some consistency against the Sixers, allowing them to shoot just 38 percent over the last two games after allowing them to shoot 49 percent in their first meeting back in November.
Rondo and the Celtics sometimes have trouble taking care of the ball, and that was on display on Friday. The Sixers scored 21 points off 19 Celtics turnovers on Friday in Philadelphia. If the Celtics had taken slightly better care of the ball Friday, they may have been headed into next week riding a three game winning streak.
Terry struggled to find his stroke against Philly, despite finding himself open on a number of shots. Terry shot just 4-for-21 over the two contests.
The Celtics’ bench made up for Terry’s struggles as Jeff Green scored 19 and 16 respectively in the two games. As a unit, the Celtics bench outscored the Sixers, 62-37, and out-rebounded them, 31-25.
In game one, Pierce was dominating whoever the Sixers put on him and erupted for a season-high 27 points. In the second game, the Sixers were swarming Pierce with double teams, so the 15-year vet made them pay. Pierce responded with a season-high 9 assists to go with 13 points on Saturday.
Garnett shot lights out in the two games, but on Saturday recorded zero rebounds for the first time since Bill Clinton’s second inauguration, nearly 15 years ago.