NEWARK, Del. — Their effort was “disappointing.’'
“Any time you don’t have maximum effort, it’s disappointing,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
And though it’s the preseason, there was little positive the Celtics could take from their 97-85 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at the Bob Carpenter Center Friday night. It was Boston’s third loss in as many games.
“I feel like we took a few steps back,” guard Avery Bradley said.
The matchup featured two similar teams: both baby-faced with rookie coaches, each a proud franchise in the infancy of rebuilding.
But Philadelphia, which most observers peg as a squad chasing nothing more than the top lottery spot, pushed the Celtics around, leading by as much as 18 in the first half.
“We started the game off like we were cool and we were supposed to win the game,” said Celtics swingman Gerald Wallace, “and they came out and hit us dead in the mouth.”
Though they trailed by 14 in the fourth quarter, the Celtics closed to within 5 late.
But they came up short, just as they did after trailing the New York Knicks by 23 in the fourth quarter before losing, 103-102, Wednesday.
“We’ve got to understand [that] we’ve got to come out in the first half and take it to teams,” said Wallace, who had 9 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes. “We’ve got to do what Philly did to us tonight. We’re not going to be one of those dominant teams in the league. We’re not going to get every call. We don’t have the guys that can just dominate and take over the game.”
The 76ers led, 54-38, at halftime with advantages in points in the paint (30-12), rebounds (33-18), and fast-break points (14-4).
Forward Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 19 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes. Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk scored 13 and Brandon Bass grabbed 10 rebounds.
Thaddeus Young scored 20 to lead Philadelphia. Hamilton, Mass., product Michael Carter-Williams added 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Friday’s loss is the first game of a back-to-back set for the Celtics, who are scheduled to face the Knicks Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.
In yet another lineup twist, the Celtics started Bradley and Jordan Crawford and had them share point-guard duties early on.
“That’s something that we wanted to see a little bit,” Stevens said before the game.
It’s expected that Bradley will share the bulk of the point-guard duties while Rajon Rondo (knee) is sidelined, but Stevens has hinted that Crawford could play that role as well.
Bradley (4 points, two assists) and Crawford (12 points, three assists) each struggled, especially when facing Philadelphia’s long, athletic backcourt.
In terms of lineups in general, Stevens said there’s a fine line between trying to experiment with the lineup while trying to get other players in a rhythm.
For forward Jeff Green, this period can be even more stressful as he’s adjusting to a new role as the top scoring option.
“Yeah, playing 20 minutes is something I don’t like,” Green said. “It’s hard. We have a lot of other guys on the team, a lot of guys trying to make a spot, so I know where coach is coming from. I know he’s trying to get a good look at everybody and figure out different rotations and lineups. I try to make due with what’s given.”
76ers forward Royce White, a 2012 first-round draft pick by the Houston Rockets, made his debut, though the talented but troubled 22-year-old started off by picking up four fouls in a span of 1 minute and 26 seconds in the first quarter. He scored 5 points . . . Celtics guard Keith Bogans left the game with a sprained right thumb.