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Evan Turner: Sixers have to ‘make it a rougher game’

05.22.12 at 12:30 pm ET
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Coming into the series, the Sixers were perceived to have a clear advantage in the athletic department over the older, more experienced Celtics.

One problem with that – it’s the Celtics have have played tougher in the big moments, like for the for the final 20 minutes of Monday’s 101-85 Boston win in Game 5 that puts the Celtics one win from the Eastern Conference finals.

With the exception of the Game 4 meltdown in Philadelphia, the Celtics have won the battle inside against the Sixers. They’ve been able to establish Kevin Garnett in the low post and he and Brandon Bass have had quality looks at the basket.

Defensively, which the Celtics to a man will tell you is where it all starts, they’ve also done a much better job than Philadelphia in stopping dribble penetration into the lane, closing up quickly on Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.

The good looks the Sixers were getting on baseline cuts in the first half Monday suddenly disappeared in the second half – as did the Sixers’ lead and any hope of winning the series on their home court on Wednesday night.

The Celtics demoralized the young, immature Sixers, who didn’t have the patience or discipline to reverse the ball because the Celtics were the tougher team. The Sixers shot nearly 60 percent for the first 23 minutes Monday night. They shot 27 percent the rest of the way.

‘€œMake shots,” is how Turner answered the question of turning around the second-half disaster in Boston Monday night. ” You get a lot of shots. The big thing is you just have to keep competing and make it a rougher game. You can’€™t let them walk into their shots, get to certain spots, you got to make it tougher for them like we did in Game 4.’€

Elton Brand, who is playing with an ailing shoulder, was huge early on for Philadelphia. He hit 6-of-8 as the Sixers had the clear momentum in the first half.

‘€œEarly on, early on, we were right with them, we didn’€™t let them get the lead like we have in previous games,” Brand said. “[The Celtics] started off on big runs, 14-0, 9-0, and [still] we were right with them, we called that at the beginning, and we had a lead at half time. And then they stretched the lead. And they were the best third quarter team during the season.”

The Sixers still had the lead, 57-53, when Paul Pierce fouled Andre Iguodala on a clear path foul with eight minutes left in the third. Iguodala missed both free throws and the Sixers turned the ball over. Then Kevin Garnett was whistled for a highly questionable offensive foul as he drove on Spencer Hawes.

But another turnover and the Celtics started off on a 10-0 run.

“Once we stretched that lead a little bit, we feel like we could take off,” Brand said. “You know we had a breakaway with free throws, and we didn’€™t knock them down and we didn’€™t score. And after that, five straight turnovers. But it can be corrected.

‘€œWe do have to recognize it more. Once they step up their intensity, of course here at home, its going to happen. Their crowd, loud out there, the calls didn’€™t go our way at that time, which happens. But we have to recognize it and get into our sets and execute, which we didn’€™t do. We know what we have to do, we watched like I said tape, we went through it in shootaround, but we didn’€™t do it so hopefully it can be corrected.’€

With all the missed chances and all the turnovers (15 Monday night leading to 18 Boston points), are the Sixers’ young players choking under playoff pressure?

‘€œI think its due to their adjustments,” Brand said. “First two games they were playing our pick and rolls and our drag screens a certain way, now they are playing it a different way, and it doesn’€™t bode well for us to execute. You know we’€™ve been turning the ball over, their long and athletic so we’€™ve been going into those traps. And you know there’€™s contact and we’€™re not finishing, and we are throwing the ball away so we can’€™t have that.’€

Added Iguodala, ‘€œIt will definitely be tough against this team. We got to believe in ourselves and focus in and try to get done and try to clean up some of the mistakes.’€

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Andre Iguodala, Boston Celtics, Elton Brand
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