For the Philadelphia 76ers to win this series, to win any game against better teams, they need to forget about playing basketball. They needed to play ugly and simply mess up the game, hoping to come out on top in the scuffle. Allen Iverson set the spark the lighted the fans that pushed them to a 82-75 game 6 win, giving us a final, seventh game in Boston.
Kevin Garnett started it all by calling out the Philadelphia fans. Before the game, Allen Iverson’s appearance with the game ball ignited the fans who kept pushing in a sloppy game of basketball, just the way Philly wanted it to be. When it was all said and done, a big night from Jrue Holiday (20 points) on both ends of the floor led the way and put the 76ers on the brink of their first conference final since 2001. Allen Iverson’s team back then.
Unlike Game 5, the Sixers didn’t fall apart in the third. They didn’t let their terrible second quarter, with only 11 points, deter them. The Celtics weren’t managing to create too much on offense and create separation. Kevin Garnett scored 20 points and Paul Pierce finished with 24, but as Doc Rivers said, these weren’t the points they needed.
The key to this whole series for the Boston Celtics and in fact every game for the C’s this season is Rajon Rondo. The 76ers had their share of problems with Rondo during the series, averaging 14.4 points and 14.6 points coming into game 6. After what he and Brandon Bass did to them in Game 5, Doug Collins drew up a whole new plan on how to stop Rondo from having his way.
They decided to gamble and bet on the fact that Ray Allen isn’t himself and can’t hit open shots. Allen was only 1-5 from beyond the arc, 4-11 from the field, finishing with 9 points. Not focusing on him helped Jrue Holiday handle Rondo (with help of course), limiting the Celtics’ point guard to only 9 points and 6 assists while having a rough night (4-14 from the field).
Elton Brand wasn’t healthy going into the game, but who is at this point of the season? He had some big rebounds, but it was more about his presence and defensive work that kept the Celtics so ineffectual in the paint. Kevin Garnett didn’t score once in the paint (What Rivers was talking about), keeping his distance from the basket. The pick n’ rolls didn’t work, and the Celtics played too many isolation plays.
And still, some stats make it hard to understand how the 76ers won – They were outrebounded (48-37) and were terrible from the outside – making only 1-9 from beyond the arc. Still, they scored 42 points in the paint to Boston’s 16. It was about grit, hustle and simply making one big play at a time, each instance there was an opportunity of a 50-50 ball, a Philly player was on the floor to take it.
No team has won two games in a row in this series. According to the first six games, Boston should provide enough of a home advantage to send the Celtics into their third Eastern Conference final under Doc Rivers and the big three/four. But these 8th seeded 76ers have belief a proven game plan that can be very troublesome for the Celtics, even in the TD Garden.
Each game presents new adjustments, and now it’s Rivers’ turn to find a way and get Rondo back in the flow of things; He needs Ray Allen to start hitting open shots; He needs Garnett to play in the paint and not settle for mid range jumpers. He has the better team, but not by much. Not by enough to inspire a whole lot of confidence heading into game 7.