If you attended the Philadelphia 76ers matchup against the Boston Celtics you got your money’s worth. You witnessed one of the most entertaining games of the season and the best 76ers match in the early NBA year. There were 14 lead changes in the fourth quarter, a game winning bucket that left only 1.4 seconds remaining and clutch shots hit by veteran stars. One of the best NBA games you will watch during the regular season.
However, if you’re a faithful Philadelphia fanatic feeling heartbroken and devastated, it is understandable. What occurred in the closing minutes of the ball game gave you hope that was quickly squandered by a team that has been there before — the Boston Celtics. It was as Head Coach Doug Collins described it, like a “kicked to the gut”. Only for us it was worse. It was like getting kicked in the gut by an older sibling, a brother that has bullied you all your life and the moment you feel like you’ve accomplished anything, they put you right back into place.
The Boston Celtics are the big brother, the veteran club and the Eastern Conference Champions. They understand what it takes to win in close games, how to come through in the clutch and win in front of a raucous opposing crowd.
The 76ers are still learning, trying to find their niche, looking to put their stamp on the NBA world and nearly awoke the attention of the League by defeating the Celtics on TNT. This is their first game on national TV compared to the Conference Champs’ 10th. The win would’ve been critical, giving the 76ers their fifth in six games and sixth straight in front of the Philly faithful. Especially with a grueling road schedule awaiting them in December — against Orlando, Chicago, Boston, Denver, Golden State, Phoenix, Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets — the victory could’ve assisted the 76ers greatly moving into the New Year. Also, beating a hampered (without Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins) marquee opponent would’ve provided a major momentum lift.
However, this team is young; they will learn from tough losses like these especially at the hands of superior opponents. They had the game in hand after Andre Igoudala delivered a beautiful finger roll layup with 6.6 remaining in the ball game. AI9 got a little lucky; that opportunity would’ve never occurred had it not been for teammate Elton Brand cleaning up his missed jump shot with 11 ticks left. The 76ers did an excellent job rebounding on the night snatching 15 offensive rebounds including eight from EB.
The offensive rebounds could not overcome the strong shooting night from the Celtics. Boston shot an impressive 55.9% from the field. The game came down to the wire with the ball in the hand of the opposition and 6.6 seconds remaining. The Celtics ran a pick-and-roll between Kevin Garnett (the screener) and Rajon Rondo (ball handler). Philadelphia responded by switching on the screen and an undersized Jrue Holliday was no match for the 6-11 Kevin Garnett who caught a lob pass from Rondo for the easy finish and game winner. I’m pretty sure you can’t like your chances with Holiday defending Garnett in the post. And at the end it demolished the 76ers.
A tough loss, in flashy fashion. There were bright spots for this 76ers team. Thaddeus Young has continued his hot scoring contributions off the bench. Thad tallied 16 points and seven rebounds to pair up with Lou Williams’ 16 points and four three-pointers off the pine. A spark that was needed from the bench, since there has been little help from rookie Evan Turner.
Turner didn’t even see the floor in the second half. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, because this topic has been circling around for the last few weeks, but man is this kid struggling. He only participated in a little over five minutes against the Celtics. Turner was a non factor collecting just one assist and one steal. And do we agree with head coach Doug Collins is doing here? Moving Turner to the 2ndteam and having him run the point guard duties. I understand that’s what he did best in college but that IS NOT what the 76ers drafted him for. Turner needs to learn to adjust not vice versa. Collins is doing whatever he can in his power to help this kid succeed, but he’s just not ready.
In place of Turner, shooting guard Jodie Meeks got the start. Meeks has been excellent of late and put together a lovely performance offensively. Jodie connected on all four three point attempts and had 19 points overall. In the last few minutes of the ball game, and the Sixers trailing 93-90, Meeks hit a beautiful layup that was challenged by KG and followed it up by swishing a contested three-pointer. For everything he did great with the ball in his hands, he made a costly mistake late on defense.
With 1:07 left in the game, the Sixers defense was scrambling, especially Holiday. Glen Davis got the ball at the FT line, with his back to the basket and was being guarded nicely by Brand. Holiday decided to double Davis instead of recovering to his man Rondo at the top of the key. So when Jodie rotated to cover Rondo (Holiday’s guy) he lost Ray Allen on the wing. Davis made a nice pass fake to Rondo and Meeks bit hard trying to anticipate the ball going to Rondo. Davis, then nicely swung the ball out to Allen who was spotted up FT line extended, behind the arc and wide open. BUCKETS. I don’t know if Meeks watched film this week, or studied the scouting report but you cannot leave Allen wide open for a three-pointer. Especially when your marking one of the most dreadful shooters at the guard position — Rajon Rondo. The three was one of the many lead changes in the fourth and one of the many deflating blows to the Sixers.
Struggling to close out the game and come away with a victory is no surprise for the Sixers. In the second quarter the Celtics ended on a high note with a 13-6 run. In the third quarter, same story, Celtics finish with a solid 11-0 run to steal a one point lead.
Finishing games is the next major task on the agenda, to get there finishing quarters strong is the baby step.
We all know that the Sixers need to work on their FT shooting (75.4% as a team) and last night it really cost them. The C’s popped19-21 FTs (90%), while the 7-6 hit 18 of 23 for 78%. Holiday was 1-3 from the charity stripe and Louis Williams surprisingly missed a FT last night. In a one point loss those missed FTs are absolutely brutal to think about after the game.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau: This is the second time in Kevin Garnett’s Celtics career that he has made a field goal with under two seconds remaining with the Celtics trailing by one or tied to give Boston the win. The other came on Nov. 22, 2009 when he hit a jumper at the buzzer in OT to beat the Knicks 109-107.
Of course NBA.com has all the gut wrenching highlights of the loss.
Our man Brendan Jackson at celticshub.com has a look at the game from the Boston perspective and a great photo of Rod Thorn.