Searching For Themselves, Celtics And Sixers Find Each Other … Again

PHILADELPHIA — The 20-game mark of the NBA season is the time when teams are supposed to have a pretty good idea of where they stand, what’s working and what isn’t.

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will each have reached that 20-game mark after completing a back-to-back home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday. Yet, both Doug Collins and Doc Rivers admit that they’re not sure what kind of team they have.

“I don’t think you really know who you are until you face some adversity,” Collins said before his team’s 95-94, overtime victory at the Wells Fargo Center, “and you have to really gather around each other and really be that team that you’ve worked so hard to become.”

Playing without Andrew Bynum, Collins’ Sixers have seemingly overachieved, though their 10-8 record is also a product of the league’s easiest schedule through Thursday.

The Celtics, meanwhile, seem to be playing below their ability. We’re waiting for them to flip the proverbial switch and start playing like the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. Maybe that will happen, and maybe it won’t. On their way to 10-8, the Celtics have struggled to defend at the level they have in the past.

“We don’t have [an identity] either,” Rivers admitted before the game. “You sometimes want to be the team you were last year, but that’s not the personnel. The team will let you know who they want to be and who they are.”

Dealing with roster turnover, the Celtics are just now starting to get in synch defensively.

“We’re graduating from not knowing to now knowing [defensive rotations],” Rivers said. “We’re still not doing it consistently yet, but we’re better at it. I can say that. We’ve taken great strides, to me, over the last five games. Sometimes the numbers don’t show it, but you can feel it. You can see it. Now, the next step is being a consistent team with it, offensively and defensively.”

As the Celtics and Sixers try to find themselves, it’s appropriate that they’ve found each other … for the 14th and 15th times (including a couple of preseason games) in the last nine months. Though both rosters have turned over since last season’s conference semifinals, these teams are probably a little too familiar with each other.

“They’re a team that we don’t like to lose to,” Jrue Holiday said.

Two games in two nights against the same opponent is a pretty unique situation. Rivers likes it, and not just because it’s the same scouting report both times.

“I just have always thought that it’s very competitive from a playing standpoint,” he said. “I think when you play the same team back to back, the game becomes very competitive, almost chippy. I enjoy that.”

After a ridiculously fast-paced first quarter, Friday’s game turned into a grind. It didn’t get too chippy, but it appropriately went to overtime and came down to the final shot, just like a couple of those playoff games in May.

That final shot was Rajon Rondo‘s, and it sailed way long. Rondo recorded recorded his 14th regular season triple-double, but this was the first in a Celtics loss. (They had lost a couple of postseason games in which he recorded a triple-double, including Game 7 in Miami in June.)

Beyond Rondo, there was a mixed bag of performances on both teams. And though the Sixers are now a game up on the Celtics for third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the East, there’s not much else to take out of this one in regard to comparing where they both stand.

Still, Rivers is happy with the direction his team is going.

“I loved our effort,” he said. “I loved how competitive we were. Overall, if we keep doing that, we’re going to make a run here soon.”

Maybe that run will start against these same Sixers on Saturday.


  1. dattebayo says:

    It’s funny how things work out. Most people were probably thinking the Celts would lead the Division because they got Green, Wilcox, Bradley, Lee and Terry healthy for the season. Most people said Bynum couldn’t lead Philly and that the Knicks and Nets wouldn’t get it done.

    Now the Celtics are 4th in their division, they haven’t become a good defensive team yet and after recent struggles Doc called his own team soft. Philly is 3rd even though Andrew Bynum has not played a game, Jrue Holiday seems to be improving and is leading the team. The Nets are second with weird losses to the Wolves, Warriors, Heat and Bucks while winning the battle of the burrows. The Knicks seem to have everything going, their defensive numbers are great, they have a new mentality of playing for each other and playing together, they are hitting a lot of threes and Felton had a few coming out parties. Even J.R. Smith is taking high quality shots and they are playing well without Stoudemire and don’t seem to miss him.

  2. Kingk says:

    Nice win for the sixers, thry should go bowling to celebrate lol but seriously the celtics should be fine

  3. Kamote says:

    As for the sixers, I think that its good theyve lost AI. He’s already at his peak, which means the 76ers reached their ceiling with him as the franchise player (much the same as Atlanta with Johnson). But getting Bynum is really the best idea. Look, Bynum is a kid, who decided 2 years ago that he’d rather watch the World Cup than get surgery, and this year decided to go bowling though he is rehabbing his injury. Unless he’d do a Z-Bo (getting his head straight in Memphis, which is rare in the NBA), the 76ers wasted money on him.

    Its a good thing thing they can decide if they want to sign him next year. I’d say dont.They have good core players in Young, Evans and Holiday, and even Hawes. They don’t need a “supposed-to-be-dominant-big-man” with maturity issues, they just need an effective big man. I mean if they can lure the likes of Gortat, Pekovic, or even Asik (heck, even Rasheed is effective at his age), they can improve at lot. Then theyd have the resources to improve even more. Let go of Bynum, the Lakers has seen this, and even the Magic did.

  4. Kamote says:

    Boston lost Allen, but gained Lee and Terry in return. Allen will be playing sub anyway to Bradley. Now they also have Green (who haven’t played much since the trade), and have deeper big men in Sullinger and Wilcox. Its true that age has been the issue with Pierce and KG, but its has been that way since they’ve won the ring. As long as they have Doc coaching and Rondo (who gets better each year) doing the execution, never ever sleep on the Celtics. I think they have the best line-up this year, and its even better when they won the trophy. If you hate Boston, just wish they don’t make the playoffs :).

  5. sixers fan says:

    i love the sixers but i am honestly looking forward to the trades we hope to make for our bench

  6. aaaaaa says:

    The Celtics look at the playoffs as “Its not how you get there, as long as you get there.” They will be one of the best playoff teams no matter what. They may be second in the east or they could be seventh, it doesn’t matter. They will make another deep playoff run, have a good shot at winning it all, and everyone will continue to sleep on them year after year…

  7. chris says:

    @ celtics fan.

    i am also a celtics fan…but i have to disagree with you. last season is the only season in which we started slow and gained momentum after the all star break.
    for the three or fours season prior to that we started like 20-5 or something. that said, i suppose this could be the new drill, but i certainly wouldn’t call it the only drill for the Cs over the last few years.
    anyway, i remain fairly optimistic…it’s just a matter of fitting all the pieces together at the right time, and that time is obviously the play offs. so i think we’ll get gradually better, probably finish fourth in the east, then have another good shot at the play offs.
    i wana see some more of jeff green going to the basket and jamming it on people’s faces.

  8. tyrone says:

    The sixers’ identity is Bynum really but he’s injured by bowling

  9. Celtics Fan says:

    Jeezze… Doesnt everyone know the drill by now? Celtics hover around .500 till the all start break and then sprints to the finnish!