If the defensive performance of the Boston Celtics in Friday's 81-65 beating of the Philadelphia 76ers is any indication, teams better bring their A-game when heading into Beantown this season.
If Philadelphia's offensive showing in the defeat is a sign of things to come as well, the City of Brotherly Love should prepare for yet another tumultuous campaign.
The 76ers field goal-to-turnover ratio was an astoundingly poor, 24:23, as their preseason record fell to 2-5 in their final tune-up before they head to the TD Garden for the season opener next Wednesday night against Boston. The Celtics, who improved to 6-1 in the preseason, controlled the rebounding battle in the contest, 67-54, while holding Philadelphia to just 29 percent shooting from the field and 3 for 23 shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
Boston struggled from the field as well, shooting just 35 percent while converting on just 21 percent of their three-point attempts, a sharp contrast from their 39 percent mark heading into the matchup, tops in the league for the preseason. The Celtics did attempt 100 field goals, however, showcasing their up-tempo offensive approach and their ability to turn turnovers into fast-break opportunities.
Shooting guard Avery Bradley forced a plethora of 76ers errors on the night, adding four steals to his 3 for 4 outing from the field in just 10 minutes of action. Point guard Marcus Smart went 4 for 8 from the field for 10 points in 25 minutes, while rookie power forward Jordan Mickey recorded 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting just 12 minutes of action.
The Celtics were dominant on the glass, with power forward Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson garnering 14 and 13 rebounds, respectively, and center Kelly Olynyk grabbing 12 boards to pace Boston's efforts.
For Philadelphia, third overall rookie selection Jahlil Okafor impressed in spurts, recording 10 points on 6 of 16 shooting in 30 minutes of play. Second-year small forward Jerami Grant was the only other 76er to record double digits in scoring, putting up 11 points on 3 of 8 shooting in 20 minutes.
Boston's defense was suffocating from the outset, jumping out to a 10-3 lead with 7:35 remaining in the first quarter after a three-pointer by Smart, facilitated by a Bradley steal. A Smart layup with 5:58 left pushed the lead to 15-7, while a bucket by Johnson with 1:37 remaining in the quarter gave the Celtics a 22-13 lead, their largest of a quarter which concluded in a 24-17 Boston advantage.
Despite firing up 28 field goal attempts in the second quarter, the Celtics struggled to put the ball in the basket, allowing the 76ers to creep back into contention. After a two-pointer by power forward David Lee gave Boston a 37-27 lead with 6:00 to go, Philadelphia surged, taking a 13-6 run into the halftime break to cut the deficit to 43-40.
Boston picked up the defensive intensity in the third quarter, however, riding an 8-0 run to a commanding 55-43 lead with 6:07 remaining in the stanza following a three-pointer by Olynyk. Philadelphia was able to limit the gap to seven. However, a running layup by Celtics rookie guard Terry Rozier handed Boston a 63-53 advantage heading into the final quarter.
The Celtics reserves displayed their full potential in the beginning of the fourth, with the cast of Sullinger, Rozier, Mickey, rookie shooting guard R.J. Hunter, and second-year small forward James Young jumping out to an 11-2 spurt to begin the quarter. A three-pointer by Young pushed the Boston lead to 74-55 with 5:50 remaining, all but sealing the victory for the Celtics, who will look to replicate Friday's performance as they host Philadelphia in next Wednesday's season opener.