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Sixers come of age, steal home court from Celtics

05.15.12 at 10:16 am ET
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The 76ers came into Game 2 of their second-round series against the Celtics knowing they had let Game 1 slip through their fingers after blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. Following the disappointing loss, Doug Collins said he liked his team’s effort, remaining optimistic that the Sixers still had the chance to steal Game 2, so long as they made the appropriate adjustments in their execution down the stretch.

Game 2 on Monday night was an ugly affair, but it unfolded the same way as the series opener as the 76ers clawed their way to an eight-point advantage, 59-51, with just over 10 minutes left in regulation. Then Mickael Pietrus — who was just 2-of-15 from long distance in the playoffs going into Monday night’s game — drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Celtics within a basket.

Philly could have turtled under the pressure, but instead it flipped the script. It was the Celtics who committed consecutive turnovers, and shortly after, Andre Iguodala reversed the momentum with a mid-range jumper.

“Our young guys just keep growing and they’re really becoming men,” Collins said. “I’m so proud of them. We just found a way. … Our guys are believing they can do it, and it is pretty special to watch.”

The Sixers allowed 32 fourth-quarter points, including six 3-pointers, but their poise was noticeably different in Game 2. Philly converted all eight of its free throws in the fourth quarter, while Kevin Garnett missed the Celtics’ only attempt. Although the C’s shot 65 percent from the field in the quarter, they committed four costly turnovers, the 76ers on the other hand, only committed one.

What was most encouraging for the Sixers in their 82-81 victory was that all eight of the players who saw action in the fourth quarter scored. So much of the discussion of this series has been predicated on the lack of a pure offensive threat on the Philadelphia side, as opposed to the Celtics, who boast four perennial All-Stars on their roster. For the Sixers, there was strength in numbers.

Though, it should be noted, a few breaks seemed to go the Sixers way, including Lavoy Allen‘s 22-foot bank shot as the 24-second shot clock was expiring to break a tie with just over four minutes left. Evan Turner also hit an impressive driving layup that would prove to be the game-winning basket. Finally, Garnett was called for a moving screen with 10 seconds left that took the ball out of the C’s hands with a chance to tie, essentially sealing the game for the 76ers.

“They made some tough shots when we needed to get some stops,” Paul Pierce said. “The made a shot with [less than a second] left on the shot clock. Turner made a couple difficult layups. That’s the part of the game where we’ve really got to make stops.”

Said Doc Rivers: “We put ourselves in that position. And when you do that, if you win the game, great, you won the game. If you lose the game, you deserve to lose the game, too, because you put yourself in that position.”

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner
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