The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics seemed to have a small gap between them last May. But since their epic second round playoff series, the Sixers and Celtics have gone in vastly different directions. They proved it again in a rematch on March 5, as the Celtics had control virtually all night and held on for a 109-101 victory.
Although the final score looked close, the Celtics led much of the way and were rarely seriously threatened. Despite Boston’s aging core, the loss of Rajon Rondo and a tentative hold on the No. 7 seed, it still had more than enough to get by Philadelphia.
It wasn’t just the “Big Two” of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce that led the Celtics, as Avery Bradley led the way with 22 points and Jeff Green had 16 points off the bench. Meanwhile, the Sixers wound up having all five starters in double figures and even got a 5-for-5 shooting performance from rookie Arnett Moultrie, but it barely made a dent.
The closest the Sixers came to threatening the Celtics was when they cut the lead to five late in the third quarter. Yet that run largely came off of Boston turnovers, which weren’t a problem in the fourth quarter. Once the Celtics ran the lead back to 15 points early in the fourth, they were able to cruise the rest of the way.
This loss and the last several weeks have made it hard to believe that the Sixers nearly eliminated the Celtics last year. However, that Philadelphia team never came back since its last loss in Boston. Few missed it that much when Andrew Bynum arrived, but now the city wishes it had it that good these days.
The Celtics may have also taken a step back since beating the Sixers last postseason. Yet they are still limping towards the playoffs while the Sixers limp to the lottery. But Boston always had a championship core, no matter how old it is now, whereas Philadelphia may have lost its best chance at a title months ago.