It wasn't pretty. For anyone except the most die-hard, it may not have even been watchable for most of the game, but the Philadelphia 76ers tied the series with the Celtics 1-1 and will return to Philadelphia with home court advantage in tow for Wednesday night's game 3.
I wrote earlier today that regardless of the Game 2 outcome, Game 1 will still be in the back of my mind, and there's definitely a big part of me that keeps thinking about how much the Sixers would be in control of this series being up 2-0 with the next 2 games at home. And it certainly wouldn't have taken all that much for that to be a reality. Just a little bit better decision making by Louis Williams and Doug Collins and we'd be there.
That being said, the basketball gods have a way of evening things out. While the Sixers were in control of the majority of game 1, only to give it away in the final minutes, the Sixers probably didn't deserve to win this one. Sure, they led for a good portion of this game again, and once again had a big lead late in the game, up 8 points to start the 4th quarter, but some shots (I'm looking at you, Lavoy Allen) were a little on the lucky side.
Blowing two big leads late in consecutive games is certainly a concern, and something we'll probably touch in as we can closer to game 3 and the euphoria has worn off, but this team is playing incredibly on the defensive end and is coming home with the series tied.
From an offensive standpoint, there wasn't much to write home about. Jrue Holiday was the offensive star, scoring 18 points on 7-15 from the field, notably shooting 4-6 from three point land. Iguodala chipped in a relatively efficient (for this game, at least) 13 points on 11 field goal attempts, which could have been even better had he connected on the 5 missed free throws. He also had 6 rebounds and 7 assists (a near miracle since the team only made 26 non-Iguodala field goals, and the rest of the Sixers compiled only 10 assists combined) to go along with his 4 turnovers.
Compounding brick city offensively were the turnovers, the 16 of which were the most the Sixers have coughed up so far in the postseason. Half of them came in a particularly brutal second quarter which saw the Sixers actually increase their lead, outscoring the Celtics 15-13 during the frame.
But this was a game won on the defensive end. The Celtics missed some shots, made some sloppy passes, and continued their incredibly anemic offensive rebounding, but the Sixers played stellar defense as well. They deflected a ton of balls, stripped ball handlers left and right, and contested shots.
Iguodala led the effort, holding Paul Pierce to 7 points on 2-9 shooting to go along with 5 turnovers. So far through 2 games Pierce is shooting 25% from the field.
But Iguodala didn't make his free throws, so I'm sure most of Philadelphia will fail to give him any credit tomorrow.
(That's not to say his missed free throws weren't a major issue, and would have been huge had the Sixers lost, but that shouldn't diminish the great impact he has had on the court.)
While Iguodala was the defensive star, Jrue Holiday's defense on Ray Allen with 29 seconds left was superb. It's the kind of execution where if it were on the offensive end people would be talking about poise and maturity. But we typically (for some reason) only associate those attributes to offense.
For 3 Sixers, their struggles in the series, and the playoffs in general, continued.
Thaddeus Young played only 13 minutes, shooting 0-3 from the field during that time. It's hard to tell how much of it is Young being worn down, how much of it is the matchup, and how much is the injury, but until I see production out of Thad I'm not counting on it in this series.
Louis Williams played another terrible game, shooting 3-13 from the field for his 8 points, once again displaying the decision making and shot selection that drive some of his detractors up a wall. Considering he played 39 minutes, second only to Jrue Holiday on the team, the Sixers really need more production out of that spot.
And Spencer Hawes, while the first glance at the stat line might look somewhat promising with 8 points and 10 rebounds, he shot 4-9 from the field, committed 4 turnovers to 0 assists, made some terrible passes, and continued to give Kevin Garnett whatever Garnett wanted on the offensive end.
Lavoy Allen's play
Luckily, Lavoy Allen stepped in and played 30 minutes of productive basketball. Let me reiterate that: Lavoy Allen played over 30 minutes of productive playoff basketball. I wasn't a fan of his drafting, and the concerns I had (none of which were talent) still exist to some degree, and won't be settled until he does this at a consistent level. But Lavoy has so far exceeded my expectations (even if he does nothing else in his Sixers career) that I can't help but give him props. 10 points, 8 rebounds, and the best interior defense on the team down the stretch. He was the only one who consistently contested Garnett's shots, both on the perimeter and in the post.
I would be surprised if Doug Collins made a change in the starting lineup, but Allen deserves it. Individual game +/- is generally misused, but in this case it directly ties into how well he's played. Allen was a +6 in 20 minutes in game 1 and a +21 in 30 minutes tonight. That's a +27 when Allen has been on the court this series and a -27 when he's been off.
Evan Turner struggled through much of the game. His 4-11 shooting was inefficient, but it was the 5 turnovers that really stuck out while watching the game.
But he came through at the end.
While Lavoy Allen's bank shot was probably (definitely) more luck than skill, Turner's incredible layup with 40 seconds left to give the Sixers the lead was an incredible shot with great body control, and one that he was probably fouled on to boot. Then, Turner added in two high-pressure free throws with ease to stretch the Sixers lead to 3 and put the Celtics in desperation mode. Turner scored 6 points in the last 3 minutes of the game, helping the Sixers rebound after Boston stormed back.
Kevin Garnett's offensive foul
I don't understand the outcry over the call from the national media. Garnett committed two fouls on that play, looking more like an offensive lineman (albeit a really tall and skinny one) than a basketball player. Leaning over and elbowing the other player is an offensive foul, even if your feet are set (which they weren't).
The only legitimate retort the Celtics have is that Garnett commits that foul all game, every game.