There isn’t a 76er that has caught more flack than Lou Williams during his six year tenure in Philly. Many fans continually moan about how he’s a ball hog or his horrible shot selection. Well in on Easter Sunday 2011, Lou Williams wiped his slate clean.
Down just one point, Lou swished home one of the most stunning three-pointers in team history, in Dwyane Wade’s eye, giving the Sixers an 84-82 lead with 8.1 seconds left on the clock. LeBron James was unable to convert a running layup and Evan Turner was able to bury home two final free throws to ensure this series heads to a game five back in Miami.
Lou deserves player of the game honors for his clutch shooting and confidence all fourth quarter long. Eleven of Williams’ 17 points came in what was about to be the Sixers final quarter of the season. At one point Lou scored seven straight for the Sixers in the 4th quarter. His emergence at the end was entirely unexpected in my opinion. This was a guy who hasn’t played his kind of isolation basketball successfully in about a month. Lou-Will’s heroics were teamed together with unlikely partner to secure the W for the 7-6 and avoid the embarrassment of a sweep.
Let’s rewind just a tad when the Heat held an 82-76 lead with 1:35 left in regulation. An acrobatic D-Wade tip-in looked as if it was good enough to sweep the Sixers out of the 2011 postseason. Wade’s defense had been incredible all afternoon (eight rebounds, five blocks) and LeBron put up his best statistics of the opening round (31 points, seven rebounds, six assists). The Sixers even went scoreless for a four minute period in the middle of the quarter.
But Doug Collins has instilled this sort-of determination switch on his basketball team. The players flipped the switch after the 3-13 start and did the same thing Sunday with 1:35 left. The most exciting, inspiring and dare-I-say extremely optimistic basketball from the 76ers season came at a point when they were on their last breath.
Who of all people helped pioneer the final 10-0 charge? Well, Mr. Evan Turner that’s who. Turner drilled a baseline floater over Chris Bosh and ignited a rally that had people choking on their deviled eggs all across the country. That cut the lead to four (82-78) when Chalmers misfired on three pointer (Miami was 5-for-23) in front of the Sixer bench. Jrue Holiday then raced up the floor, dribbled awkwardly to his right, spun around and fired up a wildly unexpected three. The shot, like Williams’ earlier, sank through the net which set the stage for what I described in the opening paragraph.
The postseason is often where a NBA player enters the infancy stages of super-stardom. In four or five years Sixers fans are going to look back at this game and remember that this refused to leave the playoffs in embarrassing fashion.
Nationally, the 76ers are looked upon as a bore, that is for now. However, thanks to our group of impressive young kids, in the future things will be a little different. Jrue Holiday has averaged 15.3 this series, higher than his regular season average and has been able to penetrate the paint on one of the best defenses in the NBA. Evan Turner is getting crunch time minutes against the Heat after an often inadequate rookie season. Turner has found himself guarding LeBron more than his fair share and is shooting 53 percent in the series. I remember when both of these players mental mistakes cost the Sixers a game I attended in Washington DC. Talk about growing up right before your eyes. Talk about a turning of the tides!? No one will really know for a few years, but I just have a gut feeling this win means something more than just not getting swept.
And don’t think that the Heat laid down for parts of this game. Outside of the first quarter and last one minute and change, Miami was lethal on the defensive end, forcing shot clock violations and using extremely effective double teams. The Boston Celtics have to be licking their chops seeing the Heat choke down the stretch once again.
A couple of underrated parts of the Sixers first postseason victory under Doug Collins.
- Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala both had 10 points each halfway through the second quarter. The Sixers two ‘marquee’ players finally were able to click together, one of the few times they have all season. Iguodala slowed down offensively but Brands motor was essential. 15 points, 11 rebounds and the decisive block on LeBron’s last shot impacted the game tremendously.
- Philly’s blazing hot start— 12 point lead after the first quarter — can be attributed to the 13 fast break points. Miami’s first lead didn’t come until 2:30 left in the first half at 43-41. This game seemed eerily similar to Game 1 all afternoon. Thank god for Lou Will though.
- The Sixers went as small as we’ve seen them in the clutch all season long. Brand-5, Iggy-4, Turner-3, Lou-2 and Jrue-1. Simply an excellent coaching call by Collins.
- I TiVoed the game and re-watched the fourth quarter. There wasn’t a single possession the 76ers walked the basketball up the court. And majority of the time they were sprinting. This kept the Heat defense on their heels and created easier chances for Philadelphia around the bucket. Playing at a fast pace like this in game 5 I an absolute must.
- The Sixers finally were able to outrebound the Heat (49-41)and kept the free throw battle within range—Sixers were 14-of-16 and the Heat were 17-of-21. Spencer Hawes was extremely physical, even fouling LeBron as hard as he has all season, prompting Mr. Ego himself to toss some verbiage at Spencer. The Sixers stood their ground.
- One final sad note: Thad Young had two points and played 20 minutes. Thad has struggled mightily in his last two games — 2-12 on FGAs and points total. Expect ET to eat more of his minutes in game 5.
- On Youtube, there is a great video from a fan who was at the game yesterday and captured the scene after Lou’s GW shot.
- Via the ESPN Stats & Info Department we have this gem — In the first nine and last nine minutes of the game combined, Philadelphia outscored Miami 43-to-17. In the 30 minutes in between the Heat outscored the 76ers by 22 points.
- Also via the ESPN Stats & Info Department — After the first 12 minutes, as they held Philadelphia to only two fast-break points the rest of the way.
- LeBron James is now just 1-for-8 on field goal attempts with 10 seconds or less remaining in games when the Heat were tied or down by three-points or less.