The surprising 76ers (40-38) weren’t able to overcome an atrocious third quarter in Boston and fell to the Celtics 99-82. It took the Sixers five minutes and 40 seconds to score in the third quarter and by then the Celtics had extended their four point halftime lead into a 63-52 margin.
The Sixers would trim the lead back down to four later in the quarter, but the damage had been done. Boston wasn’t letting this one slip away at home, especially with the 76er offense only generating 32 total second half points. The win put Boston in the number two seed — for now — and a Knicks win narrowed New York’s gap behind Philadelphia to just a half game.
Only one player on the roster showed any signs of consistency Tuesday night at the Garden. That player was Evan Turner, who was Ohio State-esque in his 33 minutes of handling the backup point guard role. ET shot 9-of-14 for 21 points, five assists and three offensive boards. Turner strapped the offense on his back for hefty portions of the game, penetrating the paint with ease and using the backboard smoothly on several running layup attempts. It was as aggressive and as confident as we’ve seen Turner in his biggest opportunity to date. Dare I say turning point?
Anyone moaning that the Sixers missed Lou Williams tonight wasn’t watching the same ball game I was. Williams is mostly a deep threat shooter and someone who blatantly tries to get to the free throw line through the use of the pump fake. Evan Turner does everything but that; defense, rebounding, passing and using his strength to flip up shots in the paint. Another performance like this from ET against the Knicks should cement his role for the playoffs.
Playoffs?! Well we know one thing for sure; it’s going to be Miami or Boston. Who would you rather play? I know one thing for certain: The Sixers would not win one game in Boston. The Celtics are too cohesive of a unit, the fans are too rambunctious and even if a game were somehow close, Doc Rivers would draw up a play for the right guy. So put me in the Miami camp. Winning in Miami isn’t impossible. The Sixers would have a stronger chance in that series because the bench — our strongest asset of the season — could make a much larger impact versus the Heat backups. And how unforgettable would that series be if the 7-6 pulled off the upset? The only superstar-less team in the NBA upends the Heat. It would be riveting.
If we had lost and ET didn’t blow up for 21, I’d be livid as a Sixer fan. But he went off against one of the best defensive teams in recent memory, and against Rajon Rondo, someone who was capable of guarding LeBron just a few months ago. Philly wasn’t making shots that they’ve hit in recent wins, and finished the evening shooting just 39.3, compared to the Celtics 52.4 percent. The next highest point total on the team was Elton Brand with just 12 points. It was revealed shortly before tipoff that Brand has been playing with a fractured hand for nearly a month.
Tuesday night was a game the Sixers desperately needed Thaddeus Young to score more points. Eight points on 4-of-10 shooting isn’t enough. Going into the game I thought he matched up well against both Big Baby and Jeff Green. He just wasn’t feeling it. From here on out, GM Rod Thorn needs to put a microscope under Young. This team would be drastically different without him. But if he fades out down the stretch like he did Tuesday, Thorn is going to have a tough decision on his hands about the impending free agent.
If the Sixers are matched up with the Celtics in the first round, it may end ugly. The help defense from the 7-6 last night was lackluster. I understand though. Boston is one of the best passing teams in the league (Rondo had 13 assists) and choosing to collapse on the player driving to the bucket sometimes isn’t even the best option. Paul Pierce (18 points, 3-of-4 from three point) and Kevin Garnett (14 points) were the beneficiaries of wide open perimeter shots thanks to Sixer collapses. Add in teh fact that Spencer Hawes seemed like a ghost defensively on the inside too and you get a near 20-point loss. Collins may need to revisit his strategy in the Sixers lone win against the Celtics back on March 11th.
- Jrue Holiday looked like a man on a mission in the first quarter, dropping 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting. Then, immaturely, the youngster picked up two quick fouls by the four minute mark of the first quarter. He was never the same after and missed his final eight shot attempts.
- I think Doug Collins may have read my recent piece on Spencer Hawes. The Center fired up 14 shots, made only three of them. I was surprised we didn’t see Tony Battie at all. Collins looks like he’s going to be sticking with small ball for now
- The Sixers shot 12-41 in the 2nd half. From the end of the 2nd Q into the 3rd Q, the Sixers went 7+ minutes without scoring.
- Andre Iguodala was hustling but he still isn’t fully healthy. 10 points is about what I expected. But if he turns that in, he must generate more than three assists.
- The Antonio Daniels experiment went off without any issues. 10 minutes and four points will be fine over the next four games.
- The 76ers forced 15 Boston turnovers, including a combined seven from Ray Allen and Pierce.
- Of course NBA.com has the highlights of the Sixers L in Boston.