PHILADELPHIA -- The Celtics
are desperately in search of answers, baskets, mental toughness, and
any sign of pride. For the second night in a row, Boston suffered an
embarrassing loss to a less-talented opponent. The 76ers dominated on
the way to a 110-97 win last night, snapping a three-game losing streak
in the process. Meanwhile, the Celtics skid is at two games with the schedule more demanding as the Cavaliers visit the FleetCenter tomorrow.
must regroup over the Thanksgiving holiday because they are off to the
West Coast in just over a week. It may be early, they may be relatively
young, and they may not expect to jell until after the New Year, but the
have reached a critical juncture. They need to figure out a way to win
games, to keep from surrendering big runs, to stay tough when facing
adversity. If they don't, it will be a long season.
their former coach, Jim O'Brien, in the second game of a back-to-back
set after a demoralizing loss to the depleted Pacers, the Celtics had a lot to prove. And they had any number of sources for motivation. But as Celtics coach Doc Rivers continually reiterates, the team needs mental toughness more than anything else. The Celtics showed some in whittling a 12-point, first-quarter deficit. But despite shooting 72 percent (13 for 18) in the second, the Celtics trailed, 56-52 at the break.
Ricky Davis provided the Celtics
with the offensive spark they needed in the second, scoring 17 points
(7 for 10) off the bench. Davis accounted for half of Boston's points in
the period with a combination of mid-range jumpers, a pair of
3-pointers, a layup, and a free throw. A Davis 3-pointer on the break
with 1.5 seconds remaining made it a two-possession game at halftime.
lackluster defensive performance in the second quarter undoubtedly made
O'Brien nauseous. O'Brien preaches defense first, but the Sixers
allowed the Celtics to shoot 50 percent in the first half, and Davis and Pierce reached double figures in scoring.
Sixers established a 20-8 advantage in the first quarter behind a 9-0
run with contributions from Marc Jackson (17-footer, free throws), Allen
Iverson (18-footer), and Kyle Korver (3-pointer). Jackson looked
impressive with 10 points in eight minutes.
But the Celtics
used an 8-1 run to cut the deficit to 23-18. Mark Blount started the
spurt with a layup, then Pierce hit an 18-footer. Pierce found Al
Jefferson for a layup before Marcus Banks capped the run with a free
throw. Still, the Celtics were struggling to find their rhythm on offense.
third quarter was much like the lackluster first as Philadelphia built a
92-73 lead heading into the fourth. When the Sixers defeated the Celtics
in the season opener, they came back from an 18-point deficit. They
would have no such challenge awaiting them in the final period.
A 22-7 run by the Sixers proved decisive as the Celtics
lacked the ability to mount any response. The spurt started with
Iverson knocking down a 17-footer, then going in for a reverse layup.
Boston failed to guard surprise starter Josh Davis, and the forward who
has spent significant time in the CBA proceeded to hit three 3-pointers
during the run. Davis nailed two perimeter shots in quick succession,
pushing Philadelphia ahead, 78-61, with 5 minutes 33 seconds remaining
in the quarter. Davis went 4 for 4 from the field, scoring 13 of his 23
points in the third. Iverson recorded 10 of his 28 in the third.
closed to 12 points with a quick 6-0 spurt. But as they struggled on
both ends, it was clearly not their night. Toward the end of the third,
the Celtics' body language deteriorated the same way it had in other frustrating losses.