Wednesday, May 23, 2012

76ers force Game 7 in Boston

PHILADELPHIA - The 76ers and Celtics, Game 7, Memorial Day weekend.
Not every attempt at going retro works ... but this is one of those times where it certainly does.
The Sixers, fueled by a clutch performance by Jrue Holiday and juiced by an emotional appearance by Allen Iverson at a raucous Wells Fargo Center, are shipping back to Boston after earning an 82-75 win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
"You can't think of any kind of consequence," Doug Collins said. "You have to play with confidence, play with poise.

"At the end of the game we were smiling, having fun ... and I love that about our guys."
The Sixers had outplayed Boston between the whistles the entire game. The only thing that kept the Celtics hanging around for a while -- and in fact holding a 36-33 halftime lead -- was some odious free-throw shooting. The Sixers missed eight of their first 13 attempts, while the Celtics made their first 18 shots at the foul line before missing.
Otherwise, this was the Sixers' night. Much of the credit goes to Holiday, who had been getting soundly outplayed by All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo for most of the series.
In this one, Holiday took charge, showing an ability to handle the ball, direct traffic and both make big shots and set up teammates. He finished with 20 points and six assists in an effort reminiscent of his Game 4 effort a year ago against the Heat in the Sixers' last elimination-game survival.
That win only allowed the Sixers to last until Game 5. This time, they and the Celtics will meet in a winner-take-all showdown Saturday.
The Sixers were able to be the aggressors thanks to a game plan that stopped Boston's ploy to attack passes deep in the backcourt. They came out running the baseline and throwing alley-oops. Only a couple found the mark, but the willingness to play above the rim set the tone.
"Jrue stayed in the attack mode," said Doug Collins, whose team outscored the Celtics in the paint, 42-16. "He knows he has to score for us."
Again the third quarter proved pivotal. The Sixers outscored Boston 27-20 in the third, as the ball movement was crisp and the shot distribution even. Five Sixers scored in double figures, and Elton Brand finally had a stellar effort (13 points, 10 rebounds) result in a win.
"Last game we had shot over 50 percent (in the first half) and we were only up three points," Brand said. "Tonight we were down three points, but we felt we played well.
"We came out and played well in that third quarter, and Boston has been the best team in the third quarter during the regular season. It's been a pivotal quarter this series."
"Heart of a lion," Collins said of Brand. "What he does for our team is amazing."
The arena had a rise in intensity brought on by both Iverson's appearance and the words of Kevin Garnett, who said Philadelphia had "fair-weather fans" after Game 5. Garnett led Boston with 20 points, but he needed 20 field-goal attempts to get there and was booed lustily every time he touched the ball.
"For our fans -- that's who this win was for," Brand said. "Someone was talking bad about our fans, so it was good to get this win for them."
With that comes the sixth Game 7 in a Sixers-Celtics playoff series. The last one came in the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals, 30 years to the day of Wednesday's win.
The Sixers won that game, with Andrew Toney earning his "Boston Strangler" title by dropping in 34 points in Boston Garden.
There will be a Game 7 on that same parquet floor -- different building, but the electricity in this rivalry that had hibernated for too long is back.
"There have been so many Game 7s in this league," said Rivers, who had played a Game 7 in Boston during his playing days with Atlanta. "These young guys don't know I played and they definitely don't know Doug played.
"It's going to come down to players making shots. That's what it will come down to Saturday."
Like in 1982, Collins wants that win in the hostile environment.
"I want more. I want more," he said. "We're going to get greedy. We want more."


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