This is why we watch playoff basketball. The highs, the lows, the growth, the guts...Just an amazing, amazing display of intestinal fortitude by the Sixers tonight in taking home court advantage away from the Boston Celtics, 82-81. A huge win, and a big first step. Meaningless, though, without the next three. Don't get too high, don't get too low. (game capsule).
Here's your rotation chart. Note the 9-0 start by the Celtics, and then the defense in the third quarter by the Sixers:
First things first. Lavoy Allen. He's your player of the game. He's the toughest guy to step on the court tonight. He's Kevin Garnett's kryptonite. No way they win that game without him. He hit some big shots, none bigger than the banker he hit at the end of the shot clock in the fourth quarter, but his defense on Garnett was beyond superb. For a rookie to man up on Garnett on the blocks like that...amazing. He might've saved this series for the Sixers (kind of makes you wonder what would've happened in game one had he been on the floor for the final minutes, instead of Hawes). Great job, kid. I think you've earned yourself some money this summer.
There's a lot to be proud about tonight, Sixers fans. The Celtics came out on complete fire. It was 9-0 in the blink of an eye, the crowd was going nuts. The Sixers used an early timeout, and poise beyond their years to calmly erase the deficit, stand up to every single punch the Celtics threw and then converted on 8 of their final 9 possessions to take the win. This is not a game they would've won last year, last month or really at any time prior to the beginning of the playoffs this year. Outstanding determination, effort and execution down the stretch and the young guys came up huge. You can point at five shots as being the biggest shots of the game: Lavoy's banked long two as the shot clock expired, Turner's corkscrewing righty layup on the left side of the rim, Turner's layup from the other side after getting stripped in mid-air by Pierce, Iguodala's long two over Pierce and Jrue's three in Paul Pierce's eye. Each time Boston took the lead in the final minutes, you could tell they thought it was over. The crowd thought it was over. The Sixers just never stopped coming. Never stopped attacking. Never stopped playing through a ton of contact. And after starting the game 7/13 from the line, they hit all eight of their attempts in the fourth quarter. Each one bigger than the last.
I have to tip my cap both to Evan Turner and Doug Collins. There were several points in the fourth quarter where I said to myself, "Man, Turner is really killing this team." He missed a couple of easy shots, got out-worked for a key rebound, got tied up in traffic and turned the ball over. But Turner rebounding in the biggest way and Collins had the faith to stick with him through the tough times, and trust him with the ball when they absolutely needed a hoop. Turner's two free throws to give the Sixers a 3-point lead were huge as well.
Elton Brand and Thad Young didn't have much of an impact on the game, again, but each provided key plays when they were needed. Brand scored 7 points in the third when the team was really scuffling for points. Thad had a huge offensive rebound in the fourth and drew a foul to stop another Celtics spurt. Each guy saw his minutes cut, and didn't give nearly what the Sixers need from them, but on the other hand, they didn't sink their team like Brandon Bass. Bass started 3/3 from the floor in the Celtics quick spurt in the opening minutes. From that point on, he shot 2/12. Lavoy held his own against Garnett on the defensive end by playing sound positional defense and refusing to give an inch. He completely erased Bass by playing right up on him, taking away the jumper, and then staying with him, step-for-step, when he tried to drive and either blocking his shot or altering it. Lavoy was really a man tonight.
Taken as a whole, I thought Lou played a pretty bad game, but he had a couple of big plays thrown in there. None bigger than the tip follow in transition when Iguodala threw one off the glass. You also can't discount the fact that the team settled down when he came in for Turner in the first quarter. He still needs to realize this is the playoffs and you aren't going to get those touch whistles, and he needs to hit some of the open looks he's getting. Overall, a small step forward from game one, and probably an important step, because I think Doug is going to fall in love with that super-small lineup (Allen or Hawes, Iguodala, Turner, Lou and Jrue) as a counter to the Celtics lineup with Pierce at the four.
Speaking of Pierce, Iguodala has him absolutely locked up in irons. 2/9 from the floor for 7 points with 5 turnovers tonight for the Celtics CSO (chief scoring officer, according to Shaq). That was a superstar defensive performance from Iguodala who has really led this team in these playoffs, if you're into that type of thing.
Go into Boston, get one game. Check. That's the first step. Take care of your home floor. That's the next one. Wednesday night, at the WFC. Great job tonight, now do it again.
Player of The Game: The worst one-year contract Rod Thorn has signed in quite some time. Could've had him for the minimum again next year. Lavoy Allen.
Next Game: Wednesday night, in Philly.
Motto: Not too high, not too low. Keep working.