The Sixers on learning how to close out games
The Sixers discuss being encouraged by learning how to close out games late. 5/14/12
Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 1
Sixers vs. Celtics
Game 2: Sixers 82, Celtics 81
Game 3: Wed. May 16, at Phila, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 4: Fri. May 18, at Phila, TBA, ESPN
Game 5: Mon. May 21, at Bos, TBA, TNT
*Game 6: Wed. May 23, at Phila, TBA, ESPN
*Game 7: Sat. May 26, at Bos, TBA, TBA
Game 1: Celtics 92, Sixers 91
Dei Lynam recaps the Sixers’ win in Boston
Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen come up large in Game 2 as the Sixers squeak by the Celtics, 82-81. 5/14/12
BOSTON — Doug Collins walked into his postgame press conference Monday night and looked stoic, just as he had after Game 1. On both occasions his team had just finished playing in a one-point game. And though the first was a defeat, the second was a victory.
The coach’s demeanor was steady and calm. Sure, he was disappointed his team had lost on Saturday, and proud of how it played to win Game 2.
But Collins, who will soon turn 61, is cognizant that more is going on here then the Sixers playing with house money as an eighth seed; they have evened a second round series at a game apiece despite entering the playoffs a heavy underdog to win even a game in the first round.
“You play a game like this and it is worth ten regular season games, with our guys growing up here at the Boston Garden, playing the Celtics, with their great tradition. They’re really becoming men. I’m so proud of them,” Collins said.
“Doc Rivers is arguably the best coach in the NBA, and for our guys to just scrap through a game tonight. We just found a way. Again, I have to tell you all season long we couldn’t win these games and now our guys are believing they can do it, and it is pretty special to watch.”
During the final 3:17 of Monday night’s Game 2, with the Sixers up two points, it looked like Sixers fans were in store for Game 1 deja vu.
Kevin Garnett, who, if feeling old, has managed to channel his energies into coming through in the guts of games, did just that.
With a little more than three minutes remaining, Garnett went back door on a pick and roll where Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen switched defensive assignments. Garnett ignited the Garden crowd with an alley-oop dunk; he was fouled on the play as well by Turner.
Sixers fans could never have known then that that play was just what Turner needed. He hates to be outdone.
Before shooting his free throw, Garnett walked to half court, talking feverishly to himself, all of which was being shown on the big screen. The crowd noise grew louder and louder and its enthusiasm for having the Sixers right where they wanted them even more noticeable.
Garnett missed his “and one,” and the teams tied at 69.
The Sixers, who were shooting 38 percent for the game at the time, and 9 for 15 from the foul line, proceeded to make their final three field goal attempts and six free throws to win 82-81.
“As a player, I didn’t have a conscience,” Collins said. “So I tell my players, ‘don’t look at the clock, don’t look at the score. Just shoot. The worst thing that can happen is you miss, you get back and play another play.’ So when you get to that point and time, you are not concerned about the consequences of missing a shot and now you are shooting more freely.”
Let freedom ring.
“We had to execute at the end of the game, which we did,” Sixers foward Elton Brand said. “It was a back and forth game. No one could score for awhile and then the basket opened and it was going to be whoever scored last and we did.”
The Sixers didn’t actually score last; Kevin Garnett did. But his buzzer-beating three, with his team trailing by four, went down only after the Sixers got a key defensive stop and Garnett was called for an offensive foul with 10 seconds remaining. The illegal screen call on Garnett gave possession to the Sixers and Lou Williams’ two free throws to put the Sixers up five eventually ended the game.
Seeing people mature is, as Collins said, something special to watch.
For example, Evan Turner pulled himself out of not just a shooting slump, but also an erratic, frustrating game to make plays at both ends of end of the floor have a huge impact on the outcome of the game. He drained two field goals and two huge free throws, blocked a shot and grabbed a rebound all in the final three minutes.
“When you are making shots, that’s how things shift,” Turner said, after starting the game 2 of 9, but finishing it 4 of 11 and 2 for 2 at the foul line. “They hit a shot; we hit a shot; they hit a shot; we hit a shot; we just tried to make sure all shots were contested.”
As for the calmness and confidence he had stepping to the foul line with 12 seconds remaining, his team guarding a 76-75 lead, Turner said the following:
“I closed out games back in college a lot. I don’t really get nervous in those situations. I don’t mind being in those situations and thank god I did it.”
Turner did it. The Sixers did it. And now, the series is not only even, but also competitive, heading back to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4 — two more games that should be pretty special to watch.
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