PHILADELPHIA – The momentum in the 76ers – Celtics series might have swung the Sixers way even before the opening tip, when former Sixers All-Star Allen Iverson was introduced at center court, and received a thunderous standing ovation.
Throughout the game, Iverson was shown repeatedly on the jumbo-tron, and the ovations continued throughout the game. It might not have helped the Sixers on the court, but the fans enthusiasm certainly didn’t hurt.
In what turned out to be an offensively challenged performance on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center, the 76ers defeated the Boston Celtics 82-75 to force a game seven in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Game seven will be Saturday in Boston.
“We didn’t have it,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
“They played with a lot of energy tonight, and a lot of energy from the building. I thought they outplayed us tonight. We have to do a better job offensively; we had a lot of empty possessions.”
The Celtics shot just 33.3 percent from the floor; their lowest shooting percentage in a playoff contest since 2008, when they shot a dismal 31.8 percent against the Detroit Pistons in game four of the Eastern Conference finals.
The 76ers shot a slightly better 45.7 percent, but were dreadful from the free throw line, connecting on 17 of 28 for just under 68 percent. The free throw line was just about the only place where the Celtics fared better on the stat sheet, making 20 of 23 for 87 percent.
The Celtics were hoping to end the series tonight, and get a few days rest before heading into a conference finals match-up between the the winner of the Indiana Pacers - Miami Heat series, but heir ability to put the 76ers away on Saturday night is not something Rivers takes for granted.
“Game seven’s are what they are,” Rivers said.
“It’s nice we have it at home, but you have to go get it, still. At the end of the day, you have to go play. You can’t just rely on [being] at home.”
Rivers is glad the team will have an extra day off before the final game of the series.
Paul Pierce led all scorers with 24 points, and Kevin Garnett added 20, but Ray Allen, who is hampered by bone spurs in his ankle, managed just nine points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Turnovers also killed the Celtics – they had 17, and only 14 assists.
The Sixers were led by Jrue Holiday with 20 points, and Elton Brand had 13, and had 12 turnovers and 22 assists.
“That’s all we wanted was to win tonight and give ourselves a chance to go into Boston, and see what happens on Saturday in game seven,” said Sixers coach Doug Collins.
“We’re competitors. I love what our guys did. Every possession was a battle, and this Celtics team is so hard to guard. Our guys did a really good job tonight.”