Once again on Monday night, the Sixers held a 10 point lead in the 2nd half. Once again, they saw it slip away in the middle of the fourth quarter. This time though, they showed resolve, poise, and more importantly they made the right decisions when they had to. Still, there were times where it looked like Game 2 was nothing more than a Game 1 replay.
Yet, in the end the Sixers were in the win column as they earned a gigantic 82-81 victory to even the Eastern Conference Semifinals at one game a piece with the Boston Celtics.
The defining play of the game was a tough drive and lay in by Evan Turner with 40 seconds left in the 4th quarter that gave the Sixers a 76-75 lead.
Sure, it was a basket that took the lead, but what was more impressive was that it wasn’t 16 foot contested jump shot. It wasn’t a rushed attempt in transition. It was a concise and intelligent basketball play that showed maturity.
It’s was a lack of maturity that cost the 7-6 a victory in Game 1 and even on Monday night, the Sixers made a few questionable and downright boneheaded plays down the stretch; including a 5 second violation call in the 4th quarter, when the game was tied at 63. (Turner was lost when Jrue Holiday fell to the ground and seemed to have no clue of how to find option B or C.)
The result was Kevin Garnett giving the Celtics the lead on the other end and after that sequence, it looked as if the Sixers would unravel just as they had done in Game 1.
Fate had other plans.
With the game tied at 65, Lavoy Allen hit a miraculous bank shot off an inbounds pass from Andre Iguodala with 0.9 seconds left on the shot clock.
The Wonders of just getting an inbounds pass in!
Survive, they did. Thanks in part to the heroic effort by Allen, the unheralded local big man from Temple. Allen showed no fear in going toe to toe with Garnett and company. He came up big again with 10 points and 8 rebounds. Ten points isn’t jaw dropping but it seemed plentiful in the scoring deprived Game 2. Especially from your back-up center.
Their young point guard, Jrue Holiday also kept them afloat as he held his own with Rajon Rondo, who has been historically spectacular.
The Sixers weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they didn’t falter or fold, or panic in Game 2. They methodically made defensive stops and started to score themselves. Most importantly, they were smart down the stretch.
In short, they showed growth when it mattered most. Yes, in some people’s eyes they were given a crutch in the form of an illegal screen call on Garnett, but they also pushed themselves to the W by limiting the foolish decisions and realizing the value of every possession; unlike Saturday night.
Game 1 was an education of how inexperience can hurt in the biggest of moments.
The question now is, was Game 2 a precursor to a new found battle tested Sixers’ team that is ready for the next progression in the NBA graduation process?
Could this team now be ready for the Eastern Conference Finals? Really?
They have 3 more lessons to pass first. The next quiz is at home at the Wells Fargo Center, tonight.