Celtics vs. 76ers: Boston seeks split in home-and-home with Philly

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics will try to put Friday's shortcomings behind them as they face the Philadelphia 76ers in the final game of a home-and-home series on Saturday evening at TD Garden in Boston, MA.

To say the Boston Celtics slipped up when it counted the most would be a fair -- but rather unfortunate -- statement. With the game on the line on the final play of overtime, Rajon Rondo inbounded the ball to Kevin Garnett, who quickly handed the ball back to an open, driving Rondo. However, Rondo slipped and pulled up limping on the shot as the clock expired, and it was off the mark.

Instead, it would be Evan Turner providing the heroics, making his clutch jumper with 3.9 ticks left to power the Philadelphia 76ers to a 95-94 win Friday at the Wells Fargo Center, marking Philly's second win over Boston this year.

The Sixers will be looking to make it three in a row when they face these same Celtics in the final game of a home-and-home series Saturday at TD Garden.

Philadelphia has proven to be a thorn in the side of a once-dominant Boston team, even taking the Celtics to seven games in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series one year ago. The Sixers have changed their composition, shipping Andre Iguodala -- once the focal point of their offense -- to the Denver Nuggets. Nevertheless, the Sixers are just as dangerous as ever.

The focus of the Sixers offense come in the form of the two-headed (or four-headed, depending on your definition of focus) monster of Jrue Holiday (18.0 points per game, 9.0 assists per game) and Turner (15.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG), with Thaddeus Young (14.6 PPG) and Jason Richardson (12.8 PPG) providing additional scoring. Still, the strength of Philadelphia's game is not its offense -- which ranks 26th in the league in scoring (92.9 PPG) -- but its defense, which has given up 94.5 points on average -- ranked seventh in the NBA.

Specifically, the Sixers' have been able to limit opponents on the fast break and in the paint, holding to teams to 11.9 and 37.6 points in those categories.

Boston's once overwhelming strength of defense has waned, and the Celtics find themselves ranked in the middle of the league (14th) in scoring defense (97.6 PPG) as well as scoring offense (15th) with 97.6 points. As one might imagine, scoring and allowing the same amount of points doesn't lead to a bunch of victories, and that's why Boston finds itself at 10-9 -- fourth in the Atlantic.

Paul Pierce, who scored a game-high 27 in Boston's loss on Friday, has been up to his usual trick and is averaging a team-high 19.5 points. Garnett is contributing with 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per night while Rondo is averaging a double-double with 13.4 points and 12.9 assists.

Boston and Philadelphia will meet once more time this season, but not until Mar. 5. Saturday's game tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET and will air on CSNNE/WEEI.

For more Boston Celtics coverage, check out our team blog, Celtics Blog.

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