May 18, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; A Philadelphia 76ers fan holds up a sign reading "close but no cigar. Go 76ers" after the game against the Boston Celtics in game four of the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Arena. The Sixers defeated the Celtics 92-83. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
This series has been anything but predictable.
After Boston stole game 1, a game in which they were outplayed for the majority of the game, Boston opened game 2 at home with a 9-0 run, ready to put the Sixers on their heals heading back to Philadelphia in a 2-0 hole. Instead the Sixers came back and won a close one, stealing home court and sending a message that Boston wouldn't be able to sleepwalk through this series.
With home court now in their favor, the Sixers returned to the Wells Fargo Center and dominated game 3 early, racing out to an early 7 point lead in the second quarter, before completely imploding. The Sixers would go on to be outscored 61-33 during the middle quarters of game 3, being thoroughly outplayed for an extended stretch for the first time this series. Boston re-took home court advantage in convincing fashion, seemingly showing their superiority and once again swinging momentum in their favor.
The momentum appeared to carry over to game 4, as Boston utterly dominated the Sixers during the first half, racing out to a 14-0 lead, ending the first quarter doubling up the Sixers 24-12, and ending the first half on a 7-3 run to lead 46-31. Except momentum didn't carry over. The Sixers outscored Boston 61-37 in the second half, tying the series at 2 games a piece and re-affirming the one constant so far in this series.
Momentum doesn't mean jack.
What can we expect from game 5? If you've been following this series, you know that you have no idea. Momentum? Figment of your imagination. Home court? Both teams have split at home so far. Offensive execution? Brief stretches notwithstanding, unlikely.
At the very least, it was nice of Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams to join the party. After Young's 22 point explosion during game 3 -- the only positive thing to come out of that game -- Young scored an efficient 12 points on 8 shots, to go along with 9 rebounds and some deft interior passing. Young had only accumulated more than 3 assists 2 times during the regular season. He had previously been averaging 4.5 points per game on 14.3% shooting on the series before his game 3 outburst.
Similarly, Williams was averaging 8.5 points per game on 29.2% shooting before getting on track during game 3, and his 15 points and 8 assists during game 4 were a huge catalyst for the Sixers win. Young, Williams, Jodie Meeks and the suddenly very important Lavoy Allen led a night shift charge that saw the Sixers bench compile 44 points, 24 rebounds, and 11 assists (compared to 12 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists for Boston's bench).
I'd be very surprised if Doug Collins changed the starting lineup, even though Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young have outplayed Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes by a long shot over the last two games. That being said, Collins will likely have a short leash for both, and Young (30 minutes) and Allen (32 minutes) played significantly more than Brand (15 minutes) and Hawes (15 minutes) did in game 4.
Avery Bradley's onging battle with his dislocated shoulder played a part in the Sixers sudden offensive surge during game 4, and he's still a game time decision for game 5. It was Bradley's 3rd dislocation of the postseason. While he's expected to play, the continuing problem is a concern. Bradley is a tenacious defender, and his absence gives Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams much more more freedom to operate.
Historically, the winner of game 5 in a 2-2 series tends to win the series more often than not. I'd love to have a prediction for you on the contest tonight, but if this series has shown us anything it's that making a prediction is a waste of time. None of us have a handle on this series, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. The game tips off at 7 pm eastern on TNT. Game thread will be up shortly before then.