I guess 7 really is their lucky number. The Sixers are now in prime position to not only finish with the #7 seed in the East, but also 7 consecutive losses. You'd think they'd have a decided advantage with both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen missing from Boston's lineup. Maybe they did, but they certainly didn't take advantage of it in their 100-98 loss to the Celts.
Let's start with the good news. Thad came back, and as you can see from the rotation chart below, he played 29 minutes at the three and the four:
Thad looked very, very good in his return, but I think it was pretty clear he was gassed late in the fourth. He left a three from the corner way short and he just didn't seem to have his usual energy. That's fine, his wind should come back quickly. Before we move on, I'd like to talk a little bit about the rotations I've highlighted above. The Sixers were down by 7 points when they went with a big lineup, Thad at the three and Iggy at the two. They stuck with Speights at the four for a little over 4 minutes and tied the game up. They never went back to this lineup and I have no idea why. It was causing mismatches all over the floor, and Speights was physically dominating his man.
Sometimes I think DiLeo gets caught up in what he thinks the rotations should be and doesn't pay attention to combinations that are working on the floor. During their dry stretch in the fourth quarter, he should've gone to this lineup and used the size mismatches it naturally caused. Instead, he went small and we know how that turned out.
For the second consecutive game, I'm laying this loss at Andre Iguodala's feet. His final line was decent, and he came up with some big shots in the second half, but his defense on Paul Pierce was atrocious and he made a handful of extremely poor decisions with the ball. I didn't really have a problem with either of his shots to win the game, he got into the lane on the first and may have drawn a foul (if anyone other than Pierce was the one fouling him, it may have actually been called). On the last-second three, they should've found a way to get the ball inbounds closer to the hoop, especially with the extra timeout they used, but they couldn't. He caught and shot from the timeline, not much else he could've done in that situation.
Sammy came up with a solid game, although I would've liked to have seen him grab more than 5 defensive boards in 34 minutes. Overall, I'm glad the Sixers didn't roll over and die. The Celts came out with more energy and pushed their lead to double digits, but the Sixers fought back and controlled the game for most of the second half. They just ran out of gas. I don't know, maybe all those minutes are catching up with Iggy.
Feel free to be disappointed by this loss, but also realize that Thad appears to be suffering no ill-effects from the sprained ankle and he'll have another game tomorrow night to get his legs back under him. He's the guy they're going to need to ride through those dry spells in the playoffs and it's great to know he should be up to full speed by the time they really need him.
Playoff update: If Chicago wins tomorrow night, the Sixers finish 7th and play these Celtics. If the Bulls lose, the Sixers have to beat the Cavs to finish 6th. Simple as that. Both games tip at 8pm.
Player of The Game: Thad
Team Record: 40-41
Up Next: @ Cleveland for the finale tomorrow night.