The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Boston Celtics 82-81, evening this series at one and providing hope that this improbable playoff run will continue for another round. The game, all-around, was ugly. Lots of missed open shots and 37 combined turnovers made the game one that would not be aesthetically pleasing.
But at this point, we don’t care. Ugly wins are wins too. And we got the one we needed in Boston.
The game featured many ups and downs (but mostly bricks). The Sixers, who could not buy a basket or a call in the first two quarters, went on a run in the third quarter. Then the charitable lineup came in and let the Celtics back in the game. Eventually, the Sixers trailed by one with about two minutes left when Jrue Holiday hit a contested three, putting us up two. Ray Allen countered with one of his own, giving Boston the lead again. Then Evan Turner hit an acrobatic layup to get the lead back. Sixers up by one.
At this point, the question was “how do the Celtics score and how painful would it be” and not if. But my fears weren’t realized. The Sixers had an amazing defensive possession, getting possession back with 28.2 seconds left and not allowing a basket. The Celtics then waited, oddly, to foul, with a lot of time left. We eventually secured the ball, giving Evan Turner two free throws, which he made like only The Villain can. Boston would get it, up three, calling timeout so they had none remaining. After inbounding, the Celtics ran a play to get Paul Pierce open for a three at the top of the circle. Except in getting Pierce open, Kevin Garnett set a screen that included a major shove on Andre Iguodala – it was so flagrant that a foul call had to be made. Eventually, the Sixers hit enough free throws to seal the victory.
The reaction to the game was mixed. Sixers fans were just happy to get a win. Celtics fans thought their team played lazily and let a “lucky” Sixers team win. As much as people are putting on the Celtics for not playing to their potential, the Sixers were far from that level too. Only three players by my count played well. Another four were downright awful.
Despite his final two minutes on the court, Evan Turner had a bad game. He was responsible on his own for 5 turnovers, but also helped commit two more shot clock violations that weren’t added to his total. He missed defensive rotations and took bad shots. He failed to space the floor and generally help his team in any way. He was having the worst game of his professional career. Luckily, he redeemed himself a bit with the last-ditch layup and late free throws, as well as a successful post defense stand against Garnett. Lou Williams shot 3-13 and made many questionable decisions, but by the virtue of not being Evan Turner and having three point range, he was a +17 on the night (in 39 minutes, which is HUGE for him). Elton Brand is clearly hurt – a third quarter scoring spurt notwithstanding, he gave us practically nothing. And speaking of injured players, Thaddeus Young looked the part as well. He played just 13 minutes without a field goal and struggled to stay attached to Mickael Pietrus in the fourth quarter, resulting in six quick Celtics points.
Spencer Hawes played alright on offense and struggled on defense, per usual. And Jodie Meeks barely existed, so I can’t pass judgment on him.
As for the strong performers, we have three. Andre Iguodala effectively shut down Paul Pierce, who was 2-9 with 5 turnovers. The offense from Iguodala was just gravy on top of that Pierce nullification, but he did provide 13 points on 11 shots (although he missed 5 of 7 free throws), with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. He has soundly outplayed the slumbering, injured Pierce this series, and I cannot help but think this match up has become a clear advantage for the Sixers.
Jrue Holiday provided offense, which is something almost no one else can say. He scored 18 on 15 shots, including 4-6 on threes. He also defended Ray Allen for a large portion of the night, and per usual did a wonderful job tracking him as he weaves around Boston’s (illegal) screens.
And finally, Lavoy Allen. I clearly timed my post yesterday around this breakout performance. He played 30 minutes of super-solid basketball, looking more and more confident as time went along and effectively neutralizing Garnett on his own. He finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds, but his defense is what stood out. While not really a “KG Stopper” like I proclaimed earlier, he did allow the Sixers the ability to defend everyone one-on-one. With Hawes as the primary defender, Garnett got where he wanted, when he wanted, forcing the Sixers to double team him on occasion in the post, invariably leaving other players open. With Allen, this didn’t happen. We needed a big to step up, and Lavoy did. He was the difference tonight.
The Celtics cannot be feeling great about going to Philadelphia with a tied series, especially since they are currently overwhelmed by injuries. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Avery Bradley are all facing different injuries which have significantly hampered their production. The Sixers aren’t all that healthy either, with Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, and Andre Iguodala facing injuries that are nagging or worse. It could be a war of attrition. The Sixers came one step closer to winning that war, now armed with home field advantage.
Tags: Andre Iguodala Avery Bradley Boston Celtics Elton Brand Evan Turner Jodie Meeks Jrue Holiday Kevin Garnett Lavoy Allen Lou Williams Mickael Pietrus Paul Pierce Ray Allen Spencer Hawes Thaddeus Young