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Closing the gap: Sixers confident in crunch time

Young, inexperienced group finding ways in fourth quarters.

With two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals in the books, we know two things: Not much separates the Celtics from the 76ers and it's going to be an ugly series.

On the surface, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. The Sixers went 35-31 in the regular season, but were a laughable 5-18 in games decided by eight points or fewer. They were even worse in games decided by five points or fewer, recording a 1-8 mark.

The ineptitude may be a little fluky, but it speaks to the lack of a star and the team's general offensive ineptitude.

However, the pendulum has begun to turn in the playoffs. The Sixers squeezed out a five-point win over the Bulls in Game 3. They later clinched that series with a wild, one-point Game 6 victory. Each of the first two Celtics games have come down to a point, with the teams splitting the difference. Add it up and the Sixers own a 3-1 record in the playoffs in games decided by five points or fewer.

"I have to tell you, all season long we couldn't win these games," coach Doug Collins said. "And now our guys are believing they can do it, and it is pretty special to watch."

As the series shifts to the Wells Fargo Center for Game 3, both sides are expecting another close one. And suddenly, that's just fine by the Sixers.

"Now it's our time to come home, we have home-court advantage," Jrue Holiday said. "Just a lot of confidence."

Ahoy Lavoy




Lavoy Allen has gone from an afterthought as a second-round rookie to one of the biggest keys in the series.



He's outplaying Elton Brand, leading to crucial minutes and a defensive assignment on Kevin Garnett in crunch time. Allen is averaging 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks against the Celtics.