Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The Celtics had four days off leading to the matchup at The O2 Arena, and the team appeared to still be in vacation mode early in the contest. The Sixers clearly were the aggressor in the early stages of the game, building a lead that grew as large as 22-points halfway through the second quarter. But then, as the C’s have done so often this season, they flipped the switch. From the 4:30 mark of the second quarter through the 3:10 mark of the third, the Celtics outscored the 76ers by an alarming 44-16 margin. Boston’s offense was highly efficient during this stretch, converting on 19 of 33 attempts from the field. Philadelphia, on the other hand, was limited to only 17 shots during Boston’s run and only managed to hit four of them. So how did the Celtics pull off another comeback win? With balanced scoring and rigorous defense.
Boston knows it can march back from considerable deficits, which certainly will benefit the team during the postseason. But as thrilling as these comeback wins are, the C’s cannot bank on being able to scrap out a win regardless of how deep the hole gets. Against the NBA’s elite, this method will be tough to employ.
A 20-point lead in the first half of an NBA game guarantees nothing. The 24-second clock, combined with the ultra-competitiveness of professional athletes, means that no early lead is truly big enough. As evidence, consider Game 5 of the 1976 Finals, Boston vs. Phoenix, which is widely considered the greatest game in NBA history. The Celtics led by 22 midway through the second quarter, but were forced to go to triple overtime before they could finish off the comebacking Suns.
For a more recent example that anything can happen in sports, look to the NFL: 28-3.
The reasons the Celtics are seemingly never out of a game are their defense and their coach.
The only problem here is that falling behind big is a very bad habit. It could be fatal in the playoffs. Brad himself has often lamented the trend, but if he has a solution, he hasn’t employed it yet. Brad simply remains calm and the team usually responds. As he said post-game:
“We stayed the course, and we’ve done that all year,” Stevens said. “We’ve come back before. There was no real panic, but we had to play a lot better.”
Perhaps with a more relaxed schedule, and more time for practice and rest, the Celts will become more consistent. Perhaps they’ll avoid the lulls that lead to large deficits. Time will tell. Considering that they are already just a few percentage points behind Golden State for the league’s top record, even a small improvement in consistency should give other franchises a lot to think about.
Related: Boston Sports Journal – Robb: Brad Stevens keeps pushing the right buttons with these Celtics
More game links
NBC Sports Boston – Brown comes up big in Celtics comeback win over 76ers in London
MassLive – After Jaylen Brown blows kiss at Philadelphia 76ers bench, Boston Celtics run off utterly dominant stretch | Boston Celtics news: Marcus Morris thought Ben Simmons took a cheap shot at him, not worried because he takes “a lot of cheap shots’ too
On Page 2: Mook making a mark
The folks here in London got an eyeful on Thursday night as Morris delivered one of his best performances to date in helping Boston rally from 22 points down to defeat Philadelphia 114-103.
“I felt good,” said Morris who told NBC Sports Boston earlier in the week that he would play tonight without any minutes restrictions. “First time just being out there and not worrying about the six-minute mark, the five-minute mark.”
Morris, who had 19 points in Thursday’s win, has missed 21 games this season with left knee soreness.
NBC Sports Boston – Celtics finally get to see what a healthy, well-rested Marcus Morris looks like
Marcus Morris had to go all the way to London to have a “normal” game – that is, one where he was both healthy and rested. He’s been playing catch-up since unexpectedly missing the first eight games of the season with unspecified knee soreness. The man they call Mook has been available only sporadically since then.
When Morris has been forced to sit, Semi Ojeleye has gotten most of Mook’s minutes. While Semi has earned Brad’s trust with solid defense, his shooting has been woeful (31.2% overall and 28.8% from the arc). On Saturday in Brooklyn, Ojeleye’s defense was a key to holding off the Nets in the fourth quarter, but he literally did not even look at the hoop, taking zero shots.
Morris is the polar opposite on offense, often dribbling the ball upcourt after a rebound, breaking down his man, and launching. When his shots are falling, Mook is a dynamic scorer. In London, he kept the Cs close with seven first-quarter points, then repeated that in the fourth as Boston pulled away. Morris ended the night with 19 points on 7-13 shooting while adding eight boards.
While it’s great that Semi has had time to develop, the Celtics need Morris on the court. As the roster is currently constructed, it’s vital that Mook be able to fill his role as a rotation player or even starter in the playoffs. Not only is he far more experienced, but the numbers favor Mook, as well. His offensive rating is 105.3 (with double-figures points in 13 of his 22 games played) compared to Semi at 97.9 (and just a single game in double digits). On defense, Morris is again better, 101.9 to 103.1. Do the match and their net ratings are Morris 3.4, Ojeleye -5.3.
With fewer games over the next three months than the Cs have played so far, Morris will have more time to take care of that knee and, we hope, prevent a relapse. They really can’t do without him.
And, finally… In case you missed it
A new Red’s Army series began yesterday in anticipation of the Paul Pierce number retirement. Every weekday until then, we’ll be posting stories about each of the players, coaches and executives behind the Celtics’ 22 retired numbers and that one retired nickname.
Stories will be posted in the order that the numbers were retired – we started with No. 22, Ed Macauley, and will continue today with No. 14, Bob Cousy. The series will conclude with the story of No. 34 on his special day, February 11.
The Rest of the Links:
Sporting News – Jayson Tatum a real contender in Rookie of the Year race
The Ringer – The Boston Celtics Might Be Unprecedented
Bleacher Report – Jaylen Brown’s Impact on Boston Celtics’ Success Can’t Be Ignored