Saturday, May 12, 2012

76ers lose a tight Game 1 to Boston

BOSTON - The 76ers found out what old legs and a lot of poise can do in the final minutes of a playoff game.
After getting a big first-half jump on the Celtics, leading by double digits for much of the second quarter, the Sixers lost their focus at crunch time and thus lost Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, 92-91, at the Garden.
Losing on the road in the NBA playoffs isn't a crime. And there were aspects of the game that the Sixers should feel encouraged by. But unlike the Chicago series, this one got away.
"We're not going to drop our heads," Doug Collins said. "We'll live to fight just as hard in Game 2 -- at least as long as I'm the coach."
If there's one thing Collins or any coach has a tough time doing it's boosting his team's IQ. It takes time and experience, and the Celtics showed how their NBA mileage might slow their bodies down, but the minds are superior.

The way the game ended was fitting. After a Jrue Holiday put a desperate jumper and a pair of free throws as bookends around a defensive stop, Boston had to inbound the ball at midcourt with 3.4 seconds remaining and up a point. Complicating matters was the fact that the Sixers weren't in the penalty, so they had to come up with two fouls.
But first, one foul was needed. The Sixers had to foul. Had. To. Foul.
Instead, the Celtics got their whirlwind of a point guard, Rajon Rondo, a head of steam as he got a hand on the inbound and ran away from Evan Turner to run out the clock.
"We were going to try and get a foul, twice, quickly," Collins said, "and Rondo got some space."
Unlike Game 6 of their upset over the Bulls in the first round, the Sixers couldn't count on dumb luck to bail them out. And that allowed a game they led for a majority of the night get away.
Rondo finished with a triple-double, and it was a biggie: 13 points, 12 rebounds, 17 assists. His shooting for much of the night was atrocious, but after the Sixers dared him to attempt mid-range jumpers for most of the night with success, Rondo hit a trio of jumpers down the stretch to put the Celtics in charge.
"Rondo is an amazing player. He really is," Collins said. "He takes that ball wherever he wants on the floor. He's spectacular."
"They are a tight-knit group," said Lou Williams, who took a pair of ill-advised shots in the final four minutes as the Sixers fell victim to a few too many bad possessions. "One of the advantages they have is that Rondo knows exactly where everyone wants the basketball."
It's the one thing the Sixers don't have: A truly superior ball handler.
While Rondo was the scrambling quarterback, the rock for the Celtics was Kevin Garnett, who had 29 points and 11 rebounds, fighting Father Time and exhaustion in 38 minutes.
"Kevin is playing great ... as well as I've ever seen him play," Collins said. "I don't know what else we could have done. He made a lot of tough shots."
It was evident from the start that the Sixers' survival of a physically brutal series against the Bulls had hardened them. Facing a significantly less hostile Celtics squad, the Sixers dominated the glass in the opening quarter (14-7) and after scoring the first seven points of the night led 28-18 after the opening 12 minutes.
For every run the Celtics made in the first half, the Sixers seemed to have an answer. When Boston ran off seven quick points midway through the second quarter to cut a 12-point Sixers lead to 37-32, the Sixers called timeout and responded with an 8-0 run of their own.
Even when the Celtics scored the final six points of the first half and the first six of the second half to take their first lead, the Sixers rallied. Using a combination of Spencer Hawes (15 points, eight rebounds) and Lavoy Allen (12 points, six rebounds in 20 minutes), they pushed their way to a 69-61 lead late in the third and were in position to steal home-court advantage.
However, that advantage gradually eroded, and it wasn't due to Boston going big. In fact, for much of the fourth quarter the Celtics went with three guards (Rondo, Ray Allen and Avery Bradley), a fourth combo guard/forward (Paul Pierce) and Garnett -- and beat the Sixers on the glass.
"You have to pick up those long rebounds," Collins said. "They beat us on hustle balls."
Much of that was Rondo's doing. After getting four rebounds in the first half, Rondo started attacking the boards at both ends and finished as the Celtics' leading rebounder.
And when Rondo started hitting shots, the Sixers got hurried and sloppy at the offensive end.
Meanwhile, the small lineup prevented the Sixers from going back to the Hawes-Allen combo.
"It's a game of adjustments," Hawes said. "They made theirs, and we'll look at the film and make ours. That's what makes it fun.
"A loss is a loss. We had control for a lot of that game and got out-executed down the stretch. I wouldn't say it makes it easier if you say you lost by one or lost by 50."


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home