Boston Celtics Rajon Rondo (C) looks to pass between Philadelphia 76ers Andre Iguodala and Spencer Hawes during the first half of Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final playoff basketball series in Boston

Boston, Philly enter Game 3 thinking… even more defense?

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It seems weird to say after two games that have felt like Sahara Desert of watchable offense, but going into Game 3 both Boston and Philadelphia are thinking about locking down their defense.

But that speaks to the mindsets of why these teams are here.

Boston is struggling to score with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen dragging bum legs around the court, so finding a way to get Rajon Rondo going or squeeze more points out of Kevin Garnett matters. (Is it time to use Pierce more as an at-the-arc shooting threat because of how he is moving?) But what they really need to do is find a way to cut off what Philadelphia is doing well this series — dribble penetration and getting to the line.

Jrue Holiday got in the lane and had six shots at the rim in Game 2, sparking the scoring Philadelphia got. Holiday had just as many shots at the rim as Rajon Rondo, but Holiday can also knock down the three (4-6 in Game 2) and that balance threw off the Celtics defense. Evan Turner also was creating offense off dribble penetration. It meant Philadelphia took 21 free throw attempts to Boston’s 9. (Philly had 20 free throw attempts in Game 1, also.)

It’s not that the Celtics played bad defense — they gave up just 87.2 points per 100 possessions in Game 2 — but with their offense dragging like and anchor their defense has to be better. Which means better individual defense, staying in front of their man, and in particularly it means Rondo winning his battle with Holiday by a wider gap.

Boston also needs to own the boards — Indiana grabbed the offensive rebound on 26.8 percent of their missed shots in Game 2. That will be a key stat in Game 3 because with two struggling offenses second chances like that can swing games.

Back at home, the Sixers can look for a boost from role players — Thaddeus Young has not yet found his groove this series but they need them. Lou Williams is not exactly a role player, he led the 76ers in scoring this season, but they need and expect better than 3-13 from him in Game 3.

But when they spoke they spoke about defense, specifically about not letting Pierce or Allen get in a groove. That duty again will fall to Andre Iguodala. Philly has taken away many of the easy buckets from the Celtics and if they continue to do that Boston will continue to struggle to put up points.

The biggest surprise in this series has been Lavoy Allen, the Sixers bench big man who has played good defense on Kevin Garnett and pitched in 10 points last game. If he keeps it up at home the Sixers are in a good spot.

They are in a good spot in general — Philly played Boston even on the road, showed poise and out-executed them at the end of a close Game 2, and now they come home. The pace of these games has been a little faster than Boston played this season and if Philly can up that a little more, get a few more easy transition buckets, they will be hard to beat.

There’s no reason to think Game 3 will not be a close, low-scoring affair like the last two games. But the Sixers come home after a confidence-boosting road win and if they can build on that this series could turn sharply in their favor.

DeMarre Carroll shoves Isaiah Thomas to ground on break, tempers flare

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Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll picked up a deserved flagrant for this foul.

With a couple of minutes left to go in the second quarter, Isaiah Thomas made the steal when DeMar DeRozan lost the ball on a drive, and Thomas was off to the races. Trying to prevent a lay-up, Carroll decided to foul Thomas far from the basket, but did so with a forearm shove that sent Thomas sprawling on the ground.

Thomas got up and had words, as did Jae Crowder.

Carroll got a flagrant and a technical, Thomas and Crowder each picked up technicals for jumping in.

Seth Curry puts up career high 31 against Timberwolves (VIDEO)

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When Stephen Curry wore a headband through the All-Star Game last weekend, West coach Steve Kerr jokingly called him “Seth” all night.

Dallas’ Seth Curry came out of the week-long break playing like an All-Star. He dropped 31 on the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night, a career high for him. He hit 13-of-17 from the field, including three from beyond the arc, but did a lot of his damage in the midrange.

It wasn’t enough, the Timberwolves got a comfortable 97-84 win behind 27 points from Andrew Wiggins and 26 from Karl-Anthony Towns. Nerlens Noel was not yet with his new team in time to play for the Mavs in this game.

Spurs kick off rust from layoff to beat Clippers 105-97 in Chris Paul’s return

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard dunks during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points despite foul trouble and the San Antonio Spurs shook off the rust from a nine-day layoff to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-97 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Pau Gasol added 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench in his return from a 15-game absence because of a fractured finger. LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dewayne Dedmon grabbed 12 rebounds.

Blake Griffin scored 29 points for the Clippers, who have dropped consecutive games to the league’s two winningest teams since the All-Star break ended. They lost by 10 points at Golden State a night earlier. The Spurs have the league’s second-best record at 44-13.

Chris Paul added 17 points in his return after missing five weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Wade, Butler lead Bulls over Suns 128-121 in overtime

Chicago Bulls' Dwyane Wade (3) drives on Phoenix Suns' Alan Williams (15) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Chicago. The Bulls won in overtime 128-121. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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CHICAGO (AP) — Dwyane Wade scored 23 points, Jimmy Butler added 22 and the Chicago Bulls rallied to beat the Phoenix Suns 128-121 in overtime Friday night.

Devin Booker scored 27 points for Phoenix, but missed a chance to win it in regulation after Wade fouled him on a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left. Booker hit the first two free throws to tie it, then missed the third.

Wade and Butler led the Bulls as they rallied from 11 down in the fourth quarter to beat the Western Conference’s last-place team. Both players scored 14 points after the third quarter to help the Bulls win their third straight.

Nikola Mirotic scored 20 points and hit four 3-pointers. Robin Lopez added 19 points. Denzel Valentine, who figures to get more playing time after Doug McDermott was traded to Oklahoma City along with Taj Gibson on Thursday, had 15 points. The rookie hit 5 of 8 3-pointers.

Eric Bledsoe added 17 points and 10 assists for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the sixth time in eight games.

The Bulls scored 20 points in overtime and were leading 116-110 after a seven-point spurt that Mirotic started with a 3.

Wade put back Butler’s airball and hit two free throws to make it 122-115. And he had the crowd roaring in the closing minute when he drove for a dunk on Alex Lin and gave the raise-the-roof gesture.

The Suns appeared to be in good shape leading 102-91 with 4:32 remaining in regulation after Booker nailed a 3 to finish a 14-2 run, but the Bulls came storming back.

A dunk by Wade and 3 by Mirotic with 1:53 left cut it to 104-103 and drew a huge roar from the crowd.

Butler hit a 3 to tie it at 106-all with 48 seconds remaining, and after a driving Bledsoe lost the ball out of bounds, he nailed a baseline jumper to give Chicago a two-point lead with 9.1 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Suns: The Suns waived F Mike Scott and C/F Jared Sullinger on Friday, a day after acquiring them in trades. … The Suns also signed G Ronnie Price for the rest of the season.

Bulls: Rajon Rondo will remain in the backup point guard role, coach Fred Hoiberg said. … G Cameron Payne (flu), acquired from Oklahoma City, was unavailable.