Led by the torrid shooting of the Jodie Meeks, the Sixers came within 6.6 seconds of handing the defending EC Champions their fifth loss of the season, in a rare national TV appearance.
The game was close throughout, with 20 lead changes and 8 ties. The biggest lead occurred in the 3rd when the Sixers led 78-70. The fourth quarter was as intense as they come, featuring multiple shots that looked like they'd be the dagger.
With the Sixers up two, Ray Allen was left wide open after a botched defensive rotation from Jodie Meeks. To no one's surprise Ray drilled the open three, posed for a second, and flashed his 'tongue-out-smile' for the world to see. Allen's three put the Celtics up one with 1:04 remaining.
The following possession the Sixers failed miserably to execute whatever play they were supposed to, resulting in everyone standing around, and Andre Iguodala wildly dribbling for the majority of the shot clock. Iguodala ended up taking a horrific-looking jumper from around 15-feet, but somehow managed to put it in. In Iguodala's defense it clearly looked like he was hacked on the shot. Sixers led by one, 42 seconds remaining.
With 27 seconds remaining Rajon Rondo penetrated and kicked out to an open Glen "Big Baby" Davis who drilled a clutch pull-up from the elbow. Boston had re-taken the lead, by a point.
As Marc Zumoff would say, "We're on the seesaw!"
The next Sixers possession started off looking predictable – an Iguodala isolation followed by a contested jump shot bricked off the rim, game over. However; instead of Iguodala taking the jumper, he put a vicious crossover on Paul Pierce and got all the way to the basket for a lay-up. Now the Sixers led by one with 6.6 seconds remaining.
Following Iguodala's lay-up the Celtics called a timeout, during which I kept saying to myself "Do not leave Ray Allen, Do not leave Ray Allen!"
The Celtics came out of the timeout and Ray Allen was in the far corner, being smothered by Jodie Meeks, who looked like someone (probably Collins, or the same voices who were in my head) just got all up in his face and screamed "Do not leave Ray Allen! Do you hear me!?!" Meeks took heed to the imaginary voices and became part of Allen's jersey for the final 6.6 seconds.
Turns out Allen was just a decoy.
Instead the Celtics had Kevin Garnett (guarded by Thaddeus Young) inbound the ball to Rajon Rondo (guarded by Jrue Holiday). Garnett immediately set a pick for Rondo, forcing Holiday to switch onto Garnett and Young to switch onto Rondo – which according to Reggie Miller, Doc Rivers anticipated. The switches created a massive height mismatch in the Garnett-Holiday match-up, allowing Rondo to throw a lob to Garnett for an easy catch-and-finish.
Now the Celtics led by one with 1.4 seconds left. The Sixers had no timeouts, so Jrue was forced to airmail a half-court pass, intercepted by none other than Kevin Garnett. Game over. Sixers lose by one.
More observations after the jump.
- Jodie Meeks was a thrill to watch yet again. Everyone knows about his lights out shooting from beyond the arch; he's been doing it since the end of last season, and tonight he was a perfect 4-4. He injects the Sixers' offense with energy and provides much-needed floor spacing. His presence in the starting lineup has vastly improved the Sixers offensive efficiency.
- The knock on Meeks is that he doesn't do much besides shoot, which is somewhat true. But his man-to-man defense is good enough to keep him on the floor, and I often find myself impressed with his strength in the post, despite his size. The botched rotation at the end – leaving Ray Allen wide open – is indefensible, but unlike Lou Williams he's not a complete liability
- Spencer Hawes had another solid performance. 11 points on 11 shots isn't ideal, but he tore it up on the defensive glass again with a 34.5 DREB%. That's four straight games with at least a 34 DREB%, which is fantastic, but unsustainable. If he can settle in the 22-25 range (he should be around 23% after tonight's performance) I'd be thrilled. Also, instead of being tested against Shaq, Semih Erden started opposite of Hawes – not the test I was looking for.
- Jrue Holiday played a decent game. He attempted wild shots and played out of control at times, but had some great passes too. Rondo still managed 19 points and 14 rebounds against Jrue and company.
- Like Meeks and Hawes, Thaddeus Young continues to play surprisingly well. He scored 16 points on 11 shots off the bench, including a couple monstrous dunks. As long as he continues to play his game, which is scoring in transition and off hard cuts to the basket he'll be a great asset for the Sixers. Thad also his the defensive glass hard for the second consecutive game (29.6%).
- Evan Turner only played 6 minutes and took one shot. With the way Meeks and Thad are playing Collins is going to have a hard time finding significant minutes for Turner. He looks completely lost on the court right now. If Meeks and Thad continue to play this way, I think the only way Turner will receive significant minutes the rest of the season is if Andre Iguodala is traded.
- Andre Iguodala had a typical performance – great defense, great floor game (11 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 turnover) and spotty shooting (14 points on 14 shots).
- #missionBJ may have to be put on hold for now. The Sixers don't resemble a bottom-five team in any way, shape or form right now. It could be an aberration, or just a hot streak, but I think they're just good enough to compete for the 8th seed in the East.