February 06, 2015
The Sixers, winners of three of their last five heading into Friday's game in Boston, found themselves down big early and -- despite their best efforts at a comeback -- ultimately fell to the Celtics, 107-96, at the TD Garden.
For Brett Brown's team, it was their eighth-straight road loss, but he had to like the effort he saw out of his players in the second half. Midway through the second quarter, the Celtics' lead had ballooned to 27 points and it looked like the game was over.
By the half, the Sixers (11-40) had cut it to 18. And heading into the fourth quarter, after holding the Celtics (19-30)to just 15 third-quarter points on 4-of-19 shooting, they were down just six points, 75-69.
With just over eight minutes remaining in the game, the Sixers -- thanks to a pair of Hollis Thompson (16 points, 8 rebounds) threes -- got to within three. That's as close as they had been since the game's opening minutes.
And it was as close as they would get, as the Celtics then went on an 8-0 run to push their lead back to 11 points.
Here are some other observations from the game:
The Sixers were without second-year point guard Michael Carter-Williams (toe) Friday night. In his absence, Brett Brown was left with just one point guard on his roster after the team neglected to re-sign Larry Drew II when his most recent 10-day contract expired.
That meant that Tim Frazier, making his NBA debut after the Sixers signed him out of the D League to a 10-day contract, would be forced to carry the load against the Celtics.
Sixers: A guy just signed yesterday has the 2nd most amount of minutes played.— Jesus Zoidberg (@JesusZoidberg) February 7, 2015
The Penn State grad, who was selected to the D-League All-Star Game this season, played 35 minutes for the Sixers Friday night and got some help from others -- like JaKarr Sampson* and even Luc Mbah a Moute -- running the point.
Frazier, the only Nittany Lion currently* playing in the NBA, remained in the game down the stretch as the Sixers mounted an comeback attempt that saw them cut the Celtics' lead to three points in the fourth quarter. He was lucky he didn't have to deal with Rajon Rondo, who was traded to the Mavericks last month, but he had his hands full with Avery Bradley (18 points).
While Frazier struggled shooting (2-for-9 from the field, 1-for-5 from the line; 5 points), he otherwise filled up the stat sheet (11 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) while committing just a pair of turnovers.
Those 11 dimes -- he is Penn State's all-time assist leader after all -- put him on a list with some pretty impressive names, including the guy he replaced in Friday's lineup:
Frazier played in five summer league games for the Sixers and played in a handful of preseason games for the Celtics before signing with their D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. In 27 games with the Red Claws, Frazier was averaging 16 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals per game.
There's a good chance you'll see him get the start Saturday against Charlotte if Carter-Williams isn't ready to go.
Looking at the box score, it's not hard to see what the difference was between the Sixers and Celtics on Friday.
The Sixers shot 44.3 percent from the field compared to the Celtics 45.3 percent. The Sixers were 11-for-25 (44 percent) from three, while the Celtics were 10-for-27 (37 percent). Not too much separation there.
The difference in the game came down to free throw shooting and turnovers. The Sixers got to the line six more times than the Celtics, but shot just 48.8 percent (15-for-31) from the stripe. The Celtics on the other hand, shot 76 percent (19-for-25). The Sixers also turned the ball over 17 times, seven more than their opponent.
I cringe just thinking about how many suicides we'd have to run after a game like that...
The Sixers were coming off their first two-day break in almost a month. With the loss they fell to 0-9 when having two days of rest. By comparison, they are 3-9 in the second half of back-to-backs.
Hopefully that bodes well for Saturday's home game against the Hornets.
Last season, the Sixers were 19th in the league with 99.5 points per game. This year, they're scoring far fewer points (89.8 PPG), but their defensive rating has jumped from 26th to 12th.
Here's a look at the comparative ratings heading into Friday night's game, via basketball-reference.com, including where they ranked among the 30 teams in the NBA:
19th • 99.5 | 89.8 • 30th
30th • 99.4 | 93.7 • 30th
30th • 109.9 | 101.0 • 21st
26th • 109.9 | 105.3 • 12th
Brown has to be happy with this improvement, especially since he's running out one of the youngest -- if not the youngest -- lineups in NBA history.
He may be on a different, but former No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner is still hurting the Sixers -- literally.
On Friday, Henry Sims landed on Turner's foot and had to leave the game with an ankle injury. He returned shortly after getting his ankle re-taped, so real harm done. But man, Turner sure knows how to scare Sixers fans.
Turner finished the game with 6 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in 28 minutes.
It's rare to see a player wearing No. 99 on an NBA team. In fact, only six players -- including Celtics' Jae Crowder -- in the history of the game have worn it, according to basketball-reference.com.
• Jae Crowder -- Boston Celtics -- 2015
• George Glamack -- Indianapolis Jets -- 1949
• Ariel Maughan -- Detroit Falcons -- 1947
• George Mikan -- Minneapolis Lakers -- 1949-52, '54, '56
• Darko Milicic -- Boston Celtics -- 2013
• Roy Rogers -- Boston Celtics -- 1998
I thought it was interesting that the three most-recent examples all played for the Celtics. Then I started wondering how many times a No. 99 and a No. 0 (or 00), like point guard Avery Bradley, played together at the same time.
It happened twice, and both were with the Celtics.
In 2013, when Darko wore 99, Bradley was already in Boston. And in 1998, when Roy Rogers wore No. 99, teammate Walter McCarty was rocking the No. 0.