76ers beat Celtics to tie series
BOSTON – Doug Collins sounded more like a proud father than a basketball coach.
“Our young guys just keep growing and they’re really becoming men,” Collins said Monday night, after his 76ers pulled out an 82-81 victory over the Celtics that evened the Eastern Conference semifinals at 1-1 and gave Philadelphia the home-court advantage in the series.
“I’m so proud of them.”
With any luck, the Sixers could have emerged from the first two games with a 2-0 series lead. But they also could have been down 0-2, and they avoided that with a big finish Monday.
“(Boston’s) Doc Rivers, arguably the best coach in the NBA, and for our guys to just scrap through a game tonight; we just found a way,” Collins said. “All season long we couldn’t win these games and now our guys are believing they can do it, and it is pretty special to watch.”
Evan Turner converted a spectacular drive down the lane with 40.4 seconds left, giving the Sixers the lead for good. He added two big free throws in a wild finish that helped the 76ers erase the pain of blowing a 13-point lead and losing the opener.
“We’ve gotten used to it; we’ve learned how to pull through and tough it out and understand what it takes to be tough enough to pull those types of games out,” said Turner, who finished with 10 points.
The Celtics came out and jumped to a 9-0 lead, hitting their first four shots and earning assists on all four, but Boston wasn’t really effective the rest of the night.
“I wasn’t really happy, or proud, of how we played offensively,” said Rivers. “It was not very good.”
The Sixers hit the Celtics with a 14-0 haymaker late in the third quarter to take a 10-point lead while Boston was going the final 4:44 of the quarter without a field goal. And that came after six-minute field goal drought earlier in the quarter.
“I think we play some of our best basketball on the road,” said Collins.
Jrue Holiday led a balanced Philadelphia attack with 18 points, while Lavoy Allen came off the bench and was huge with 10 points, eight rebounds and tough defense on Kevin Garnett.
One of Allen’s baskets came with 4:04 left as the Sixers inbounded from the side with 0.9 seconds on the 24-second clock and Allen banked the ball in from over 20 feet.
Asked if it was the biggest shot of his life, Allen said, “Yeah, I would say so. I would definitely say so.”
Said Holiday: “I think we’re growing; we have a young team.”
Ray Allen scored 17 points and Garnett, who dominated Game 1, had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Celtics, but three of the points came on a meaningless 27-footer as time expired.
Rajon Rondo, who had a triple-double in the opener, had 13 assists Monday, but scored just eight points (4-for-12 from the floor) and had seven rebounds. Paul Pierce, playing on an injured left knee, was 2-for-9 from the floor and scored just seven points.
“We’re upset we lost the game,” Pierce said, “You know nobody likes to lose in this type of setting at home.”
And now the Sixers are home for Games 3 (Wednesday night) and 4.
“It’s going to be really crazy,” said Turner. “It’s a great game, our fans are definitely excited and it’s going to be great to be in front of them to compete.”
Said Pierce, “I mean, it is what it is. I can’t change it. We got our work cut out for us. They took home-court advantage now. We got to try to find a way to get one or two wins in Philly.”
Avery Bradley, who has been playing with a left shoulder injury, aggravated the shoulder in the first half and left the game. He returned for the fourth quarter and made some big plays, including a 3-pointer from the left corner with 2:22 left that put the Celtics ahead.
NOTES: Boston’s Mickael Pietrus revealed before the game he will need surgery on his right knee during the offseason, but that won’t keep him from playing in the playoffs. “They need to clean out some of the tissue in there,” he said. “It is hurting a little bit, not as much as it used to. It can wait.” He hit two huge 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter. … Collins when asked pre-game about stopping Garnett: “You’re not going to stop Garnett. What you would like to do is protect the paint. He had eight points in the paint the other night. If we can keep him out of the paint and make him take long jump shots, hopefully he won’t shoot as well as he has before.” … Former Celtic fan favorite and current Bull Brian Scalabrine was at the game doing some local television work and was shown on the big screen, leading to chanting of his name. … A pre-game on-court announcement introduced the plans for the Bill Russell statue to be installed at City Hall Plaza.