Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Celtics Poop Their Basketball Shorts, Sixers Win Game 6 82-75 Going Away
Philadelphia won 82-75 in one of the ugliest basketball games I've ever seen and this is coming from someone that used to cover Division 4 (the smallest) high school girls basketball in Massachusetts for a living. The Sixers forced a winner-take-all Game 7 on Saturday (time TBA) at TD Garden against the banged up Celtics, who are suddenly reeling and looking quite vulnerable.
The C's fell to a dismal 2-11 in close out games on the road in the Big 3 era, they are also 2-4 on the road this postseason. Looking for some positive numbers? Boston is 17-4 all-time in Game 7's at home and 20-7 overall in Game 7's. Neither team has won consecutive games so far in this series.
Avery Bradley missed Game 6 and he's reportedly done for the playoffs with his dislocated shoulder. This meant that Ray Allen had to play a big role but he was held to nine points in 26 minutes since he was saddled with four fouls. It's probably a combination of his ankle woes and age but Allen looks over the hill in this series.
It's not like the Sixers played great, they missed 11 free throws and gave up 11 more rebounds (48-37) including seven more offensive boards (14-7) but their youthful athleticism and variety of scoring options is what helped them succeed. Eight more assists (22-14) and Boston's 17 turnovers leading to 19 points helped their cause as well. Finally, who could forget Philly's 42-16 edge in points in the paint?
Philly had five players in double figures led by Jrue Holiday (20 points, 6 assists), who is not scared of the moment. Elton Brand put up 13 points and 10 rebounds while Evan Turner (9 rebounds) and Andre Iguodala (6 rebounds) each scored 12 points. Lou Williams notched 11 points and six assists off the bench and Spencer Hawes tossed in nine points.
The Celtics shot a horrid 33.3% for the game and had a season-low 14 assists. Paul Pierce (24 points, 10 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (20 points, 11 rebounds) might as well have been the only Boston players that showed up. Rajon Rondo (9 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) was held to his lowest assist total in 36 games. Brandon Bass (2 for 12) came back down to Earth with a thud after a career-high 27 points in Game 5, he was limited to just eight points.
The most frustrating part (besides Rondo) was KG's unwillingness to attack the paint/basket. All 20 of his shots were from outside the paint, showing that his bully reputation might be warranted. Moreover, this loss is further evidence that the Celtics are front-runners, particularly if they take care of business on Saturday like we think they will.
With the way this one unfolded, it's hard to believe that one of these teams will be in the Eastern Conference Finals and only eight wins away from an NBA title. This game was more suited for November or better yet, the preseason.
Philly led 22-19 after the first quarter but Boston went ahead with a 17-11 second quarter, haha really. Mickael Pietrus made a 3-pointer right before the halftime buzzer for a 36-33 Celtics advantage. As Sixers head coach Doug Collins has stressed, the third quarter has been the key frame in this series. The team that has controlled that has generally won the games. No surprise then that Philadelphia surged in front with a 27-20 third. KG made some shots in the fourth but he couldn't save Boston by himself as the Sixers put it out of reach 22-19.
The best thing for all of us is two days off between Game 6 and 7. This series has been nothing close to well played despite the fact that they have alternated wins from Games 1-6. Eastern Conference basketball is worlds away from what we expect during the Western Conference Finals (Spurs vs. Thunder) in terms of level of play, style and offense.
This being the NBA, you know that the Celtics will get more foul shots (the Sixers had 5 more tonight) in Game 7 which is good news for them. The question is if they can squeeze anything out of Allen, Rondo and anybody else not named Kevin or Paul. The C's looked like a poor imitation of the Heat in Game 6 with two players basically doing everything. Holiday is better than I expected but there's no way that Rondo should lose that battle, especially to that degree.
To tide us over, we will be forced to watch Heat-Pacers Game 6 tomorrow night and hope that Indiana can stave off elimination. The Big 3 is 3-2 all-time in Game 7's although they lost the last two (Game 7 vs. Lakers in the 2010 NBA Finals and Game 7 vs. Magic in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals). I'm not saying it can't happen (that would be silly) but I hate to think that the Big 3 go out like this, on the Garden parquet against a No. 8 seed with a chance to go the Eastern Conference Finals against a team they can beat (regardless of who wins that series).
UPDATE 5/25: Bradley had surgery on his shoulder today so he's done for the playoffs. That is a big loss for the C's since he's been their best on ball defender by far and he started 10 games before his shoulder was repeatedly dislocated. Get well soon Avery! He has a bright future for the Green.