BOSTON – This is a tricky time in the NBA season.
Teams that are fighting for playoff positioning can been seen on a nightly basis giving it their all, while clubs playing out the string can also be witnessed packing it in for summer vacation.
The Sixers and Celtics might not be headed to the postseason, but neither team looked in a hurry for the year to end on Friday night.
The Sixers were able to make enough plays in the fourth quarter to claim a 111-102 victory at TD Garden (see Instant Replay). It marked their second straight win in Boston, with the previous one also being their last road win on Jan. 29.
Overall, the Sixers have notched two wins in less than a week after losing 26 straight to tie the NBA’s longest skid ever.
“We're on a roll,” head coach Brett Brown said to laughter. “You see what I see. They stay together and they play. They give their ‘A’ effort more times than they don’t. They stay together. They cheer for each other, they continue to do the right thing and they have a true desire to get better.”
The Sixers appeared ready to break the game open at times but couldn’t because of Rajon Rondo doing it all to notch a triple-double and the Celtics’ activity on the glass. The C’s outrebounded the Sixers 49-34 in the game. Boston also grabbed 19 offensive rebounds on the night.
Once the Sixers matched the Celtics’ energy on the backboard, they were able to secure the win.
“Everybody is going to write different things about the game, but the game was won because we boxed out,” Brown explained. “They had two [offensive rebounds] in the fourth and four in the third.”
While the Sixers started to hold their own in the rebounding department late, they also got some good ball movement in the fourth quarter to make 11 of 17 field goals.
“That was about how you close out a game and we just haven’t had many of those this year,” Brown said. “I thought they did a really good job of understanding we are going to play through Michael (Carter-Williams) and Thad (Young) and we want the other people to take advantage of the attention that Michael and Thad receive.
“Again, that environment has been rare this year and I thought they did a good job closing out a game.”
Carter Williams and Henry Sims led all scorers with 24 points each. Young added 15 points and so did Elliot Williams off the bench, as all nine Sixers that took the court scored in the game.
That type of offensive balance and a decent job on defense should have been enough for the Sixers to take control, but Rondo made them sweat it out. The point guard had 11 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists for his 19th regular-season triple-double.
“He is so dangerous and calculated,” Brown said. “The message to me for our young point guards is that he plays with such a deliberate pace, cockiness. I love it. He is so confident and strong and he will dribble and dribble wherever he wants.
“I thought the adjustment we made was we had to squeeze him and make him play in a crowd. We ended up creating 22 turnovers as a team and that was born out of our bigs playing better, but Rondo always is so dangerous.”
Dangerous enough to put a scare in the Sixers on this night, but not enough to keep them from a win.