Doug Collins adjusted to and exploited Boston's small lineup in game four with Lavoy Allen and Thad Young. In game five, Doc Rivers took a look at the Sixers roster and realized going small was doing them a favor, so he went bigger. The Sixers weathered the size disadvantage for 24 minutes, then collapsed. 3-2, Boston, heading back to Philly for game 6. (game capsule).
Here's your rotation chart:
The Sixers didn't lose this game because of the refs, so just forget about that excuse. They lost the game because they let Greg Stiemsma shoot 5/5 in the first half - which kept Boston in the game - and they let Brandon Bass shoot 9/13 for 27 points to bury them. Their defensive principles were screwed up all night, they were jumpy on the defensive end and they lost those guys countless times. In short, it was a poor defensive effort, with or without the assist from the zebras. Also, if you plan to win a big game on the road in the playoffs, you have to be ready for hometown calls. You have to play through them, and if you get the feeling the game is going to be called tight, you don't play softer to avoid the whistles, you get your money's worth whenever someone on the other team drives the lane. Once the tone of the game was set by the refs, the Sixers should've planted every Celtic who went to the hoop. They were going to the line anyway, make damned sure they aren't going for an and-one.
Collins was clearly out-coached tonight. Rivers completely abandoned the small lineup, instead playing two bigs every meaningful minute. Rivers also wisely dodged Lavoy Allen. When Allen checked in, Garnett checked out, like clockwork. Collins could've realized what was going on at the half and started Lavoy in the third quarter instead of Spencer Hawes, who has proven to be completely useless in this series, but instead he stuck with his guns. I guess you can make the case that up by three coming out of the break isn't the time to mess with your lineup. The indefensible thing was Collins watching Bass and Garnett torch his bigs and instead of going to Lavoy early in the third, he decided to go smaller with Thad for Hawes. Thad was terrible tonight, and by the time Lavoy checked in, Garnett had done his damage for the third and he conveniently took a seat to rest, avoiding Lavoy again.
It was a rough night, and a terrible second half, but ultimately, it's just a loss. Down 3-2 isn't where you want to be, but it's where the Sixers find themselves. The series is as it was planned to be, road team down one game with game six on their own floor. Follow the script one more time, and they're right back here in Boston for game seven. Don't get too high, don't get too low. Just get ready for game six.
Player of The Game: I went with Jrue, somewhat by default, but mostly because if Collins realizes it, a trend has emerged over the last couple of games. When Jrue is given the keys and given a chance to run the offense, good things happen against this Celtics defense. In the first half, Jrue's shot was on, but really, he was more effective in setting his teammates up. He ran the pick-and-roll to perfection with Lavoy for a couple of easy hoops. The pick-and-pop with Brand. He drove and kicked. This trend goes back to the previous game as well. Jrue can get in the lane against Rondo, and when Boston's defense overreacts, he's been setting guys up in rhythm. My biggest problem with Jrue, or with Collins, or with both is that he hasn't been getting enough shots. In the last two losses combined, Jrue has shot 9/16 for 25 points. In those two games, Evan Turner shot a combined 6/23 for 15 points. Jrue also had 16 assists. Turner's aggression was necessary in the game four win, but until he proves he can hit the broad side of a barn, he needs to take a back seat. They need to turn it over to Jrue and Jrue needs to make sure he doesn't turn it over once he has the keys.
Next Game: Wednesday night, 8pm, in Philly on ESPN.