|Sixers come of age, steal home court from Celtics||05.15.12 at 10:16 am ET|
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.”
|Kevin Garnett: ‘Let the players decide the game’||at 1:07 am ET|
Kevin Garnett set a moving screen. He knows it. You know it. And referee Michael Smith knows it.
The only possible question is whether Smith should have called Garnett for it, what with 10 seconds remaining, the Celtics trailing by three and Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on the line.
“I just thought in that situation you let the players decide the game,” said Garnett, whose illegal pick overshadowed an inspired fourth quarter in the 82-81 loss, “but if he felt like that was an illegal pick, then that’s what it is.”
It’s the kind of play that can and should be argued at bars all over Boston. Those wearing green-colored glasses swear it should have never been called — not then, when a whistle sways a conference semifinals series.
“I wasn’t fond of it. At all,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team travels to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Wednesday. “You know, I think Kevin got called for three off-the-ball offensive fouls. So clearly it looked like they were looking for it all night and they got three of them. If you’re going to tell me Kevin was the only one moving in picks tonight, then I’ll live with that. He clearly was not the only one, but he was the one who got the calls tonight.”
|Fast Break: Philly stakes its claim in Boston||05.14.12 at 9:32 pm ET|
After struggling offensively for the first three quarters, Kevin Garnett willed himself and the Celtics back into a game they trailed by as much as eight in the fourth — but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 76ers in an 82-81 loss.
Garnett scored 11 of his 15 points and grabbed four of his 12 boards in the fourth quarter, and Avery Bradley and Ray Allen made back-to-back 3-pointers to snare leads of 72-71 and 75-74 in the final 2:20, but Philadelphia executed too well, and Garnett committed a costly moving screen with 10 seconds left and the C’s trailing by three.
Allen’s 17 points led the Celtics in scoring, and Rajon Rondo finished with 13 assists. Jrue Holiday led the 76ers with 18 points, and Evan Turner scored six huge points in the fourth quarter, as the Sixers evened the Eastern Conference semifinals on their way home for Wednesday’s Game 3.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Settling down: As quickly as the Celtics built a 9-0 lead in the first quarter, the Sixers erased it. A whopping 14 of their first 17 shots came outside of 10 feet, cutting the lead to 15-13 midway through the first quarter and tying it 25-25 46 seconds into the second. A whopping 13 of the C’s first 17 shot attempts came from 10 feet and beyond, thanks in part to Rondo passing up open layups for the possibility of an assist on a jump shot from his teammates.
Shouldering the load: Bradley reinjured his oft dislocated shoulder when Sixers forward Elton Brand blocked his shot attempt. While Allen replaced Bradley in the lineup, the Celtics missed the 21-year-old’s quickness defending Philadelphia’s young backcourt. At halftime, Bradley owned the C’s best plus/minus (plus-13), while Allen had their worst (minus-12). Meanwhile, Sixers guard Holiday scored 13 first-half points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Center of attention: Just as the C’s backcourt defense suffered without Bradley, their entire defensive effort struggled without Garnett in the lineup. The Celtics built a 15-7 in Garnett’s first five minutes on the floor, and the Sixers outscore them 13-8 over the next five minutes. And so went every five-minute interval. The worst stretch came in the third quarter, when the 76ers turned a 43-40 deficit into a 51-47 lead with Garnett on the bench, taking momentum into the fourth quarter.
This was the script Doug Collins dreamed of — his team clinging to a six-point lead, early in the fourth quarter on the road, despite multiple runs by the Celtics. His collar loosened, ever so slightly, as Lou Williams got a hand on a Ray Allen jump shot, and then pulled up in transition to bury a long-range shot of his own. Seconds later, Lavoy Allen sank a textbook baby hook shot, and the 76ers opened up a 10-point lead.
The momentum abruptly came to a halt, however, as the Celtics went on a 12-2 run over the next five minutes. The Sixers offense proved to be non-existent at the worst possible time, and suddenly, with just under five minutes left to play, Philly was trading baskets in a one-possession game with the Celtics. The lead, the security, and hopes of catching Boston off guard and stealing home court vanished.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Collins said. “We are off to a really good start. What we needed here, coming in today on the road, we fought on some. When it is all said and done, we had a great chance to get this game today and just had four really bad offensive possessions that really hurt us.”
What may trouble Collins most is not how his team blew the lead, but who blew the lead. Going into the fourth quarter, everything appeared to be working for the 76ers. Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner had 16 points each, the Sixers forced Rajon Rondo into committing six turnovers, they outscored Boston’s bench 20-14, and they were even shooting 4-of-10 on 3-pointers.
A big question mark going into this series, though, was if Philly’s playmakers – Iguodala, Turner and Williams — could come through down the stretch. Saturday night, the answer was no. The three combined to go 2-for-10 from the field in the fourth quarter. And, as their shooting touch failed them, none were able to get to the foul line. Williams had a shot blocked, Iguodala had two of his sent the other way, and both had turnovers in critical moments. Most telling is that not one 76er scored more than four points in the fourth quarter.
“That’s sort of the sign of a team that’s trying to grow and figure out what it is to play this kind of championship basketball in the NBA playoffs,” Collins said.
As much as the Sixers did struggle, Rondo was great when he needed to be, atoning for an uneven night. In the final frame alone, he had six points, four assists and five boards. The assists came from Rondo pushing the ball upcourt. The Celtics scored seven of their 14 fast-break points in the fourth quarter. Perhaps the scariest aspect of Rondo’s fourth-quarter performance was each of his three field goals coming from 18 feet and out.
“When he starts making shots, you have to honor that,” Turner said. “That allows the other guys to get space. It allows [Kevin Garnett] to get on the block one-on-one with a guy, or Paul [Pierce] to iso, or for Ray [Allen].”
Said Doc Rivers: “I thought Rondo’s shooting, obviously, down the stretch was fantastic. He wanted those shots. We ran that play, we were going to switch Ray and put him in that spot where the guy curls back up, and Rondo wanted that play. He wanted the shot and he took it. That has to be great for his confidence.”
|Irish Coffee: Celtics Get No Respect||10.07.10 at 10:02 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
NBA.com released its ninth annual GM Survey, and I’ll tell ya: Rodney Dangerfield got more respect than the Celtics. Sixty questions were posed to the league’s general managers. Here are the highlights (or lowlights) …
- 63 percent of GMs believe the Lakers will win a third straight title. The Heat got 33.3 percent of the vote, and Boston got the remaining 3.7 percent. However, 100 percent of GMs think the C’s will win the Atlantic Division, so they’ve got that going for them.
- 75 percent of GMs believe the C’s are the best defensive team in the NBA, and Rajon Rondo received the most votes (32.1 percent) as the NBA’s best on-the-ball defender. Defense wins championships, no?
- Kevin Garnett picked up votes for best defensive player and best interior defender in the league, but Dwight Howard dominated both categories.
- 66.7 percent of GMs predicted Kevin Durant would win MVP. Kobe Bryant was next on the list with 25.9 percent of the vote. Semih Erden did not receive a vote … yet.
- 55.6 percent of GMs would take Durant to start their team. Only 25.9 percent said they’d take LeBron James. To me, this is the most surprising outcome. In 2009, LeBron got 78.6 percent of the vote . Apparently, his reputation took a hit within the NBA, too.
- Not a single GM picked Rondo as the NBA’s best point guard . Deron Williams got half the votes, followed by Chris Paul (35.7 percent), Steve Nash (10.7) and Chauncey Billups (3.6). Billups over Rondo? Really?
- The only Celtic to receive a vote for best player at his position was Garnett, and he finished well behind co-winners Pau Gasol (isn’t he a center?) and Dirk Nowitzki.
- Ray Allen won two categories: best pure shooter and best at moving without the ball. Ray also received a vote for the player who will make the best coach.
- GMs believe Doc comes up with the best defensive schemes in the league. Doc Rivers received a vote for the NBA’s best coach, but Phil Jackson won in a landslide. The “who’s the best manager/motivator of people” vote was closer, but Jackson still won (46.4 percent to 26.8).
- Believe it or not, the C’s Luke Harangody is the most likely rookie to be a sleeper success.
- The Garden is not the hardest building to play in. EnergySolutions Arena in Utah is.
|NBA mock draft 2.0||06.22.10 at 6:48 am ET|
On Thursday night, the next batch of young talent enters the NBA in the 2010 draft. The consensus No. 1 pick by the Wizards remains John Wall, and Evan Turner is most likely to be selected second by the 76ers. However, since our last mock, there have been players who have seen their stock rising.
Two of those players are Luke Babbitt from Nevada and Paul George from Fresno State. Babbitt’s offensive prowess and shooting ability have teams considering him in the second half of the lottery. George’s athleticism and and NBA body make him one of the best small forwards in this draft, tempting teams to give him another look.
Also, an international player makes his first appearance in our mock at pick No 21. Power forward Kevin Seraphin from France is a raw talent with a lot of potential, something that teams have reached for in past drafts when evaluating players from overseas.
While Seraphin makes his way into our first round, another international player in Donatas Motiejunas is left off after deciding to withdraw from the draft. Unlike many of the previous drafts, this one doesn’t boast exceptional international talent. Excluding the first few picks, it also seems like one of the most unpredictable drafts in recent memory.
John Wall, Kentucky, Fr., PG, 6-foot-4, 196 pounds
Wall is the no-brainer No. 1 pick in this draft. Possessing incredible quickness and athleticism that allows him to drive by defenders in a Rajon Rondo-like fashion, he will give Washington a true point guard to play alongside Gilbert Arenas.
Evan Turner, Ohio State, Jr., SG, 6-7, 214
Turner was the best player in college basketball this past season and is far from just a consolation prize after Wall. With the ability to play three positions with his size, Turner is a versatile scorer who can create his own shot at any time. Think Brandon Roy with the ability to fill up a stat sheet. Though Philadelphia could use a frontcourt player, this is a case of taking the best player on the board — and a really good one at that. Read the rest of this entry »
|Wizards pull one out of the hat||05.18.10 at 8:32 pm ET|
The Washington Wizards won the NBA Lottery on Tuesday night in Secaucus, New Jersey. The New Jersey Nets had 250 of the 1000 chances or a 25 percent chance of gaining the first overall pick for the NBA Draft in late June. John Wall of Kentucky and Evan Turner of Ohio State are considered two of the likely choices to go first overall to the Wizards. The Nets actually finished third behind Washington and No. 2 Philadelphia.
“I have no idea,” Wizards general manager Ted Leonsis said when asked on ESPN whether he would take Wall with the No. 1 overall pick.
Irene Polin, the widow of former Wizards owner Abe Pollin, represented the franchise and wore the world championship ring of her late husband when the franchise won its first and only title as the Washington Bullets in 1978.