Sixers no match for Celtics, lose fourth straight

Sixers no match for Celtics, lose fourth straight
April 9, 2012, 3:23 am
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BOX SCORE

BOSTON -- Spencer Hawes laid on his back, arms outstretched on the TD Garden floor. He fell after his buzzer-beater attempt at the end of the first half rimmed out, and in that fraction of a second he was the embodiment of the Sixers' deflating second quarter. Hawes eventually found a way to pick himself up. The Sixers did not.

The Celtics went on a dominating 18-2 run in the second quarter and carried their momentum through the entirety of the second half to beat the Sixers soundly, 103-79, on Sunday. (See Lynam's Instant Replay.)

This team is taking it to a whole 'nother level, said Sixers coach Doug Collins of the Celtics. They make you look bad. Its the combination of us being bad, and them making us look worse.

It didnt get much worse for the Sixers than in the second. The Sixers were held to just 14 points in the period. They also turned the ball over five times, including two shot-clock violations, giving them 11 first-half turnovers in all. Coming into Sundays game, the Sixers averaged just 10.9 turnovers per game.

Turnovers on the road against a team like this -- cant happen, Elton Brand said. Execution has slipped some. Its not just one thing. Its a lot of different things.

The Celtics managed just eight points off the Sixers' giveaways in the first half, but it was clear that the Sixers offense was sputtering.

I think at one point in time we had more turnovers than baskets, Collins said. You cant do that in here against Boston. If you catch them on a road night when theyre a little weary, maybe you get away with that, but not at home. Not when theyre playing here and energized.

The Celtics shot 58.8 percent on their home floor, and they seemed to have an answer for any time the Sixers threatened to make a run. The Sixers showed life to begin the third quarter when Brand got Evan Turner a bucket off of a steal. But the Celtics shot back with 11 straight points.

Kevin Garnett finished with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley both scored 18, while Paul Pierce chipped in with 17. Rajon Rondo had 15 assists and seven points.

The times we played them before, we made them make those jump shots against us, said Collins, whose team had beaten the Celtics twice earlier this season. We tried to prevent them from getting in the paint and all. We had pretty good success then, but not today. Those guys knocked those shots down.

I mean they went through a stretch where they were hitting whirling dervishes, falling down, falling out of bounds. Every body who touched the ball, the shot went in.

Scoring for the Sixers was once again an issue. One night after getting 51 points from their bench in a loss to the Magic, the reserves let down in the second quarter.

The starters began the game hot, making their first three shots and playing the Celtics to a 25-22 score after the first quarter. After that, though, neither the first nor the second units could muster much offense. The Sixers shot just 38.2 percent from the field and were held to less than 80 points for the second time in the last week.

They cut the Celtics lead to 16 twice in the second half but could not get any closer than when it was 88-72 with eight minutes left.

Yesterday our bench had 51 and our starters couldnt score, Collins said. Today our starters had some points and our bench couldnt score. Nikola Vucevic was encouraging. It looks like hes been rejuvenated.

I knew going in it was going to be tough scoring against this team. I watched them against Indiana, which is a much more superior scoring team than us. I watched them against Miami. I knew that when Boston really locks in, theyre tough to score against.

The Sixers leading scorer was Vucevic -- one of the few bright spots for the Sixers -- who recorded 14 points and 13 rebounds. Hawes finished with two points (1-for-3 shooting) and five rebounds.

Andre Iguodala finished with 13 points to lead the starters. Turner also started and had 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting in almost 33 minutes. Jodie Meeks and Thad Young combined for just eight points. Lou Williams finished with eight.

Our bench has been great all season, said Brand, who had six points in about 15 minutes. When they can max their talent over the other teams bench, it really helps us game in and game out. If we dont get that bench production, its really tough for us to win games.

The loss is the Sixers' fourth in a row. They are now tied with the Knicks for the seventh playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, although New York holds the advantage in the tiebreaker.

We cant look back, Turner said when asked about the direction his team is headed. We have to keep focusing on the positives.

Lately, there hasnt been much in the way of positive things to focus on. A win and a season sweep against the Celtics would have been a momentum boost for the Sixers (29-27). Instead theyre now three games behind Boston in the Atlantic Division with 10 games left, looking for answers.

Well take the good with the bad, Brand said. This is definitely the bad right now. Our next win, whenever that is, is going to feel real good.

E-mail CSNPhilly.com contributor Phil Perry at paperry27@gmail.com.