Although their season will end early for the first time in seven years, the Boston Celtics are showing they're not content to coast to the finish.
The Celtics will try to salvage some more pride by avoiding another defeat to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.
Boston (25-55) won't appear in the postseason for the first time since finishing 24-58 in 2006-07, but the Celtics haven't let that affect them in the past two games. One night after snapping a nine-game losing streak with a 106-103 win over playoff-bound Charlotte, they beat Cleveland 111-99 on Friday to halt a team record-tying, 13-game road skid.
Both wins came despite the absence of star point guard Rajon Rondo due to a bruised left shin. Boston was also missing Jared Sullinger (ankle), Jerryd Bayless (knee) and Kris Humphries (knee) on Saturday, but rookie Kelly Olynyk matched a career high with 25 points and set another with 12 rebounds in his first start since November.
Avery Bradley also scored 25 points and has surpassed 20 in all three games since returning from a strained Achilles.
"Wins like this mean a lot because it shows that we're going to continue to go out and play hard," Bradley said. "We feel like we still have something to play for."
The Celtics are looking to win three straight for the first time since Feb. 2-7.
They'll also try to send Philadelphia (17-63) to its 33rd loss in 35 games and fifth in a row. The 76ers have lost four straight since winning 111-102 in Boston on April 4, and they beat the Celtics 95-94 on Jan. 29 before tying a league record with 26 consecutive defeats.
During that skid, the 76ers lost 114-108 on Feb. 5 in their only home game against Boston. Their only victory in their last 21 home games was a 123-98 rout of Detroit on March 29 that snapped the 26-game slide.
Philadelphia has allowed all four opponents during its current skid to shoot at least 50.0 percent from the field, and is coming off a three-game trip in which it surrendered an average of 117.7 points.
Michael Carter-Williams led six 76ers in double figures with 23 points Saturday in a 111-105 defeat to Charlotte. Philadelphia's bench provided 40 points after scoring a season-high 52 in a 117-95 loss at Memphis on Friday and drew praise from coach Brett Brown.
"(They're) just doing whatever it takes to earn NBA minutes, to earn NBA respect, to find a way to contribute to a group," he said. "I'm proud of them."
However, it was starters Henry Sims and Carter-Williams who keyed the win over Boston earlier this month with 24 points apiece.
Jeff Green scored 36 in the victory at Philadelphia but totaled 33 points in the Celtics' two losses in the season series.
Boston is averaging 105.4 points in its last five games, 9.4 more than its season mark.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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