As the third-quarter horn sounded, Paul Pierce looked confused. Kevin Garnett had his head down. The Celtics had dominated the Sixers for two-plus quarters and held a four-point lead, yet it felt like they were losing. The crowd, outfitted in free white Sixers T-shirts, had remarkably risen from the dead, just as the hometown team had on the court.
“I thought they just came out and became more physical,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought we lost our composure and once we did, we really never returned to playing basketball the way we played in the first half.”
The Sixers, who trailed by 15 at the half on 23.1-percent (9-for-39) shooting, suddenly were back in Game 4. Evan Turner was jawing with officials and taking on double teams. Lou Williams was completing and-ones effortlessly. And Lavoy Allen continued his shutdown defense on Kevin Garnett. And Thaddeus Young was asserting his will in the low post. The Sixers shot 52.6-percent in the third while outscoring the Celtics, 28-17.
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“We pretty much said at halftime that they’re pushing us around and we have to impose our will on the game,” Young said. “If we have to knock somebody down, then we have to knock somebody down and take the foul, get the ball out of bounds and let’s go at it again.”
The end of the third quarter proved to be the pivotal moment in an improbable 92-83 Sixers’ win Friday night over the Boston Celtics which tied the Eastern Conference semifinals at 2-2. The two teams will head to Boston Monday night for Game 5.
“It was pretty much a must-win for us,” Andre Iguodala said. “If it’s 3-1, it’s whole different mentality.”
If the tide started turning in the third, it crashed into the shore in the fourth. Young’s lay-in with 10:05 showing in the frame tied the game at 63-63. Then, Jodie Meeks stroked a 3-pointer to give the Sixers their first lead.
“Keep fighting. Keep fighting. Keep pushing. Keep pushing,” Iguodala said. “We’ve been down before and got back.”
True. But they haven’t always closed them out. But the order for red, white and blue confetti was placed after Lou Williams penetrated and dished to Iguodala, who promptly stroked a three-ball from the corner, with 36.9 ticks remaining. The much-criticized All-Star ate it up, pumping his chest emphatically to a “Beat the Celts” chant as the Sixers took an 88-83 edge.
“Pass and kick and he got the shot up,” Williams said. “If I wasn’t going to make shots — I had two points at halftime — I was going to play with a lot of excitement and activity.”
Iguodala called Williams the player of the game.
“We’ve played together for seven years, so we’ve done that before," Iguodala said. "Obviously not as big as that one, but I’ve gotten that shot before.”
And the Sixers nnow have a shot to take a 3-2 stranglehold on this series.
“Our psyche is a little different, but we still have to stay humble,” Iguodala said. “We’re going to keep getting their best shot, and we have to keep them from getting in a good rhythm to start games.”
Rookie Lavoy Allen is earning himself a starting spot on the Sixers.
Maybe he gets it in Game 5. Maybe it’s next season. But it’s coming.
His defensive work on Kevin Garnett has been stifling. One of the reasons the Celtics big man was able to get into a good flow in Game 3 was because Allen got into early foul trouble. Allen is humble. He doesn’t want to credit himself too much. However, the newspaper clipping pasted on his locker, the one of him and Garnett face-to-face, literally cheek-to-cheek, says it all.
“Lavoy once again, defensively, just did a tremendous job,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said.
Allen held Garnett to 3-of-12 shooting in Game 4, which matched the Big Ticket’s lowest percentage in a playoff game. His swat on Garnett in the paint late in the third brought a smile to boxer Bernard Hopkins’ face, who was sitting courtside.
“He’s been huge for us all season,” said Thaddeus Young. “He’s definitely not shaken. Lavoy’s not even listening to him [Garnett]. He’s just playing.”
Garnett, of course, loves to chirp during games and throw elbows when he can. It’s not bothering Allen. The rookie might be getting into Garnett’s head.
“I’m not sure he’s frustrated,” said Allen. “I think we’re doing a good job, being physical. You know he had a good game two nights ago, so we just tried to keep him under wraps.”