05/20/12 9:39 am EST
For every word that has been said, written, and recorded about Andre Iguodala – for every trade prayer that Sixers’ fans have sent up – for every boo that has rang down in Iguodala’s direction – Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals was for all of them.
More specifically, the final 4 minutes of the Sixers’ exhilarating 92-83 win on Friday night was for them.
It was Iguodala who sealed the victorious fate of the Sixers with a dagger 3 from the corner to put the Celtics in a 88-83 hole and gave the Wells Fargo Center a jubilant vibe that it hasn’t felt in 11 years.
It’s a moment that can even overshadow a miraculous comeback in which the Sixers looked left for dead from the opening tip off.
The Celtics started off the game on 14-0 run. Of course, the Sixers subscribed to the losing formula of dreadful jump shooting and turnovers. Boston took full advantage, and at one point they held a lead as large as 18. It looked as if Game 4 was going to be a carbon copy of the last 3 quarters of Game 3. After all, the Sixers only shot 23% in the first half.
Iguodala, the eventual hero started the game missing his first six shots.
But something happened. The Sixers didn’t fold. They grinded, defended, and most importantly DROVE their way back into the game. It all started with a third quarter that seemed to last an eternity, thanks in part to a flurry of technical fouls and stoppages in play.
Then the Sixers came out with a flurry of their own. For the 1st time, they actually looked as if they knew how to run a professional set offense. There were baseline cuts and dishes from Lou Williams. There were Evan Turner drives to the basket. Oh, and there were actual post moves in the paint. All this led to the Sixers cutting a deficit that seemed impossible to overcome, to just 4.
As great a story as that was, it almost seemed insignificant to what could be Iguodala’s biggest moment of his career.
It all began with 3 ½ minutes left in the 4th quarter. After all the effort and hard work the Sixers had done to revive themselves from the brink of a Game 5 elimination, they still found themselves down 79-76 to the championship built and battle tested Celtics. It seemed as if that the comeback would all be for naught.
That’s when an Iguodala that has never been seen before in Philadelphia arose like a forgotten and under-appreciated hero. He drained a 3 to tie it up at 79.
Then, with the game tied at 83, it was a Iggy midrange jumper that gave the Sixers the lead for good.
Then, thanks to Boston’s fear Lou Williams, and his penetration ability (maybe because he actually proved he could do so) Iguodala was disrespectfully left wide open in the corner.
And just like that, as Iguodala’s much criticized shot went in the air, and ultimately through the net, allowing Dre to claim a place in Philadelphia 76ers’ lore.
It was as if a monkey literally jumped off of Iguodala’s back and crawled across the court and out onto Pattison Avenue.
For so long, Iguodala had been a great defender, an outstanding teammate, and quite simply, an athletic specimen. Many (including the writer of this very piece) believed he had been nothing more than an overpaid, under-performing, and sometimes even a sulky wannabe star.
Despite being the best player of the franchise since Allen Iverson days, it seemed that his poor shooting and inability to perform in the clutch has outweighed any of his consistent and stable qualities, on and off the court.
But, on Friday night, it was the ironic combination of his shooting and clutch performing that have placed his Sixers in a position to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s a thought that would have been laughable prior to Christmas Day.
Who knows? With the way things are going between the Celtics and Heat, perhaps there’s a trip to the NBA Finals in the future.
That may be a bit much. Yet, there aren’t many people who would have predicted that Andre Iguodala would be the deliverer of hope for the Sixers, either; even after all of his years of service.
It seems appropriated to end this rant with a simple but an overdue sentence:
Congratulations, Andre Iguodala!