76ers rally from 18 points down, beat Celtics
PHILADELPHIA — All night the Philadelphia 76ers were fighting an uphill fight.
It was left to Andre Iguodala to put them over the top.
Iguodala scored five clutch points in the final 1:22 Friday night as the Sixers completed a comeback from an 18-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 92-83 in Game 4 of their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Iguodala scored 16 points for the Sixers, who evened the best-of-seven set at two games apiece. Game 5 is scheduled for Monday night in Boston.
“Now it’s a series,” Sixers forward Elton Brand said.
“No matter what people say as far as it’s not over ’til it’s over, being down 3-1 is a totally different mentality than being even at 2-2,” Iguodala said.
Paul Pierce scored 24 points and Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists for Boston, which scored the game’s first 14 points and led 49-31 early in the third quarter. But the Sixers, spurred by a roaring sellout crowd, took a three-point lead with nine minutes left in the game.
And with the score tied at 83-83 and 1:22 remaining, Iguodala found himself isolated against Ray Allen at the top of the circle. At first Iguodala motioned for point guard Jrue Holiday to come get the ball, so that Iguodala would be able to go down into the low post and get a return feed. But Holiday was unable to shake his defender.
Iguodala, as a result, took a dribble or two and nailed a 17-foot stepback jumper. He added a 3-pointer from the right corner with 36.9 seconds remaining, pushing the Sixers’ lead to 88-83.
Jodie Meeks tacked on four free throws in the final 32.2 seconds.
Evan Turner also scored 16 points for the Sixers, albeit on 5-for-22 shooting. Lou Williams had 15 points and eight assists off the bench.
Brandon Bass also scored 15 for the Celtics, who stretched a 15-point halftime lead to 49-31 early in the third quarter, only to see the Sixers go on a 37-16 run to take a 68-65 lead with nine minutes left in the game. Williams scored nine of his points in that flurry and Turner eight.
Meeks’ 3-pointer with 9:49 left gave the Sixers their first lead of the night at 66-65, and Turner’s fast-break dunk 49 seconds later made it a three-point game.
The lead changed hands seven times over the next 7:22, until Rondo tied it at 83-83 on a layup with 1:38 to play. Then Iguodala struck.
“Give them a lot of credit,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought coming out at halftime … they just came out and became more physical, and I thought we got into that instead of playing basketball, quite honestly. I thought we lost the composure and once we did, we really never returned to playing basketball the way we played in the first half.”
Sixers coach Doug Collins said, “I just told our guys, ‘You know we’re just going to keep fighting; that’s what we do.’ It ain’t pretty. Just keep grinding it.”
Pierce scored five points and Bass four in Boston’s game-opening 14-0 run. The Celtics later went up 18-3. And while the Sixers crept within six at one point in the second quarter, Boston held a 46-31 advantage at halftime.
By that point the Celtics were shooting 52.8 percent from the field, the Sixers 23.1 percent. Philadelphia also missed eight of its 21 free throw attempts.
Bass had 13 points in the first half. Pierce added 12, while Rondo contributed nine points and nine assists.
Holiday topped the Sixers with 10 points.
NOTES: Collins elected not to change his starting lineup despite the struggles of power forward Elton Brand, who had 14 points and nine rebounds over the first three games, and the fact that rookie Lavoy Allen has defended Garnett better than any other Sixer. Collins said he respected Brand “to the ultimate” and added, “The guys that are out there fighting for you every single night. I think you’ve got to give them a chance.” … Brand had just three points and two rebounds in a little under 16 minutes, but Allen provided eight and 10, respectively, while playing nearly 33. … Thaddeus Young had 12 points and nine rebounds off the Philadelphia bench. … Turner also grabbed nine boards, and the Sixers enjoyed a 52-38 rebounding advantage. … Kevin Garnett, who turns 36 Saturday, had nine points, 11 rebounds and seven turnovers for Boston.