Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sixers lay down for Celtics in Game 2

PHILADELPHIA - The 76ers took home-court advantage from the Celtics by an inch in Game 2.
The Celtics took it back by a mile in Game 3.
Playing smartly, aggressively and relentlessly, Boston stomped into the Wells Fargo Center and walloped the Sixers, 107-91, Wednesday night, taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.
After a one-point loss in Boston, the Celtics gathered for shootaround Wednesday morning and decided this was their must-win game.
"I really believed we needed this game," Boston point guard Rajon Rondo said after another night of controlling the flow. "It wasn't just me, it was everyone. We wanted to send a message today, and I think we did a pretty good job of that."

After playing game after game of bruising, defensive ball this postseason, the Sixers went Pilsbury Dough Boy soft in this one. The Celtics shot 51.9 percent from the floor, got to the line 28 times and figured out a way to get Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce going. When you include team rebounds, the Sixers were beaten 55-41 by the weakest regular-season rebounding team in the playoffs.
"You could see from moment one they were looking to push the ball at every opportunity," Collins said. "This was a team that you could see coming in did not want to be down 2-1 playing Game 4. They came in and have been in a lot of these games. They know how important these 'swing' games are to get home-court (advantage) back."
The Sixers had to like the pace of the game in the first quarter. The teams were exchanging buckets, but for most of the opening 12 minutes the Sixers were ahead, including when Lou Williams hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give them a 33-28 lead.
However, in the eyes of Doug Collins and his coaching staff the appear of his players' hot shooting in the early going made them inattentive at the defensive end.
"We were up 10-4 and (associate coach) Michael Curry said to me, 'We've missed four defensive assignments already. I don't like this at all.' And that was when we were up 10-4.
"I thought we got seduced a little bit. Early in the game we were scoring and in a nice rhythm, and we never got in any defensive mindset the entire night. And they sliced and diced us.
"Everybody had a lot of space tonight."
After missing his first six shots, Pierce (24 points) started to turn his frustration into aggression, attacking the rim with the fierceness of a younger version of himself. While he finished the night just 6-for-17 from the floor, he attempted 14 free throws, had 12 rebounds and was responsible for the first two whistles against Lavoy Allen on a foul-plagued night.
"I think that's what he is when he's healthy," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Pierce. "Paul is a grinder. He has great fundamentals, never does it with speed. He's just a throwback guy who knows how to play basketball.
"You could see early on he missed two layups, had no lift, and then he dunked the ball coming down the lane. He gets five offensive rebounds."
While the quick fouls neutralized Allen, the hero of Game 2 for his play against Garnett at both ends of the court, Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand -- you know, the starters in the frontcourt -- were completely ineffective against Garnett and Brandon Bass.
Hawes and Brand combined for seven points and eight rebounds in 39 minutes; Garnett had 27 points and 13 boards in 30 minutes.
As the Sixers defense buckled in the lane against Rondo and Pierce, it created even more space on the wing for Garnett, who used it to abuse Brand and Hawes as he backed them to the basket.
"He was really upset after the game the other night," Rivers said of Garnett, "because he didn't think we played the right way."
The second quarter was a complete steamrolling by Boston, as it outscored the Sixers 32-16, battered them on the boards and took a 60-49 lead into intermission when the Sixers botched a chance to go into halftime down by as little as seven points with two bad possessions in the final minute.
The only Sixer who seemed to have a pulse the entire night was Thad Young, who finished with 22 points and five rebounds. However, even when Young tried to give the Sixers some juice in the third quarter, but every hustle bucket by him was countered by a way-too-easy score by the Celtics at the other end.
Rondo hit shots early, which spaced the floor for Boston. The electric point guard finished with 23 points and 14 assists with just one turnover -- the Celtics committed just seven turnovers in the game, with no player responsible for more than one.
All in all, it was a terrible night for the Sixers. The only silver lining is that one butt-tanning counts the same as a game won by the skin of their teeth.
"I told the guys this is the ebb and flow of the playoffs," Collins said. "You have to navigate it. This is a new experience for us. The Celtics have been through that ... it's good that we're going through this, learning from this. And hopefully we'll be a lot better in Game 4."


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