Not So Fast
After a dominating game 3 win for the Boston Celtics against the Philadelphia 76ers, Philly knew they had to play their heart out to tie this series up or else the future would be very bleak. It didn't start off so well for Philly, because Boston came out firing on all cylinders. Boston outscored Philly 24-12 in the first quarter & then 22-19 in the 2nd, leading to an impressive 46-31 lead at halftime. The game was so lopsided that Philadelphia was booed by their homecourt fans.
Some teams would probably crawl into their shell after a half like that. It was the biggest game of the year for a young team that nobody even expected to be in this round & they were getting punk'd out. The fans booing them may have a motivating factor, though, because they came out ready to play in the 3rd quarter. Philly's offense emerged in the 3rd quarter as they dropped 28 points on Boston & only gave up 17 to the Celtics. The 76ers were back in the game. Still, Boston had the lead going into the 4th, Philly would have to play that much better to complete this miraculous comeback. They did just that. Philly is a team centered around depth, they don't really have that prototypical "superstar" player. Their proverbial "best" player showed up last night, though. Their potential Olympic representative Andre Iguodala put the team on his back & led the 76ers to an improbable victory against the mighty Celtics. It was Iggy's 16 points that helped propel the 76ers, including 5 straight points for Philly in the final minute & a half when the game was tied. With less than 2 minutes left, Iguodala calmly took a step back jumper & drained a go-ahead shot to put the 76ers up 85-83. Immediately after that, Rajon Rondo had his shot blocked & Philly was back on the attack. Iguodala sank a 3 point shot for the dagger, giving Philly a 5 point lead & causing the passionate fans, the very ones who were booing this team earlier, to go into a frenzy. 76ers somehow win 92-83.
I wrote in my small prediction yesterday that I believed if the Celtics could get the kind of stellar production they got from Rondo, Kevin Garnett, & Paul Pierce in game 3, then game 4 would be just as easy for them. It started off that way, but they fizzled fast. Garnett no longer looked like he was 10 years younger, he looked old again. Only 9 points after his epic game 3 is definitely not what Boston was looking for. Pierce played well, getting 24 points, but seemed to take a backseat as he watched Rondo try to make plays by himself, even though he is not a play-making point guard. Brandon Bass had a good first half, but disappeared in the 2nd half, finishing with 15 points. What's really hurting the Celtics is the lack of production from their former all-star shooting guard, Ray Allen. He played 31 minutes but only scored 5 points. He has been disturbingly quiet this series & God knows they could have used him last night. This supporting cast is awful for Boston, the stars need to make the plays & they just didn't last night in the 2nd half. Keyon Dooling was bricking shots left & right while no one else could even pray to hit the rim. Philly, on the other hand, has great depth & put their trust in all of their players to complete the comeback. Evan Turner, their much maligned former lottery pick, poured in 16 points for them while the runner-up for 6th Man of the Year, Lou Williams, scored 15 points off the bench, 13 of which he scored in the 2nd half. Williams was really the spark this team desperately needed in the 2nd half. All of Philly's starters had a negative +/- rating, save for Evan Turner who finished neutral at 0. Williams, on the other hand, finished with an impeccable +28 rating. Add in 12 points off the bench from Thaddeus Young, 9 from Jodie Meeks, & 8 from Lavoy Allen & you've got some pretty solid bench production. Philly's bench outscored Boston's 44-12.
Game 5 will be played on Monday as this series has quickly become one of the more exciting ones left in the playoffs. It's anyone's guess as to how the next game will play out. After watching Boston dominate game 3 & the first half of game 4, you gotta believe they have what it takes to shut down this young 76ers team. The thing that keeps Philly more than just alive, but with legitimate reason to believe they can win is their depth & confidence. Boston has their big 3 of Rondo, Pierce, & Garnett, but that's about it. If they don't perform, they're screwed. Philadelphia, however, has a rotation that goes about 8 men deep. Boston will be playing at home on Monday, which should give them the emotional charge they may need to shake off this heartbreaking loss. Philly seems to play off the energy their crowd gives them, it's time for this young team to prove they can win pivotal games on the road. I still believe Boston ultimately wins this series, but this has 7 games written all over it.
And This Happened...
Lakers stay alive & beat Thunder - The Lakers are now only down 1 game, 2-1, to the Oklahoma City Thunder as they won game 3 99-96. It was a close game throughout & admittedly, at times, tough to watch. It was sloppy, with both teams combining for 24 turnovers & a slew of free throws. Joey Crawford was a referee & he's no stranger to confrontation & not one to swallow the whistle. It seemed like they couldn't go more than a minute or two without a foul being called. 28 free throws for the Thunder & 42 for the Lakers. There was one point in this game where Russell Westbrook went to the ground to get a loose ball & promptly threw a hissy fit when the Lakers players dared to try & take the ball from him. It was a play you see constantly in the NBA, a player goes to the ground, the opposing players reach down to try & get the ball. Westbrook threw elbows like, well, like he was Metta World Peace & most of them were directed at Mr. World Peace as he tried to get the ball. Westbrook was correctly given a technical foul, but for some reason, so was Metta World Peace. Now you can see why I thought this game was painful to watch. Ticky-tack touch fouls were called throughout the game as the Thunder were not able to keep their hands off Kobe Bryant down the stretch. It was Kobe's clutch free throws during the closing minutes of the 4th quarter that proved to be the difference as he made all 18 of his free throws, finishing with 36 points. Hopefully these 2 teams can play a cleaner game next time, because a free throw shooting contest is not fun to watch. We won't have to wait long, however, seeing as how game 4 is tonight. A rare back-to-back in the playoffs for these two teams, but when you're playing around the schedule for Los Angeles Kings, Clippers, & Lakers, there's going to be some screwy scheduling.
Justin Verlander just misses his 3rd career no-hitter - Justin Verlander, last year's AL Cy Young & MVP for the Detroit Tigers, has 2 career no-hitters. Last night, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he took a no-hit bid into the 9th inning, but came up just short. Josh Harrison singled to center to give the Pirates their first hit with 1 out in the 9th inning. Verlander still pitched a hell of a gem, complete game 1 hit shutout with only 2 walks & 12 strikeouts. Fitting that a player would have such a dominate performance coming off the news of Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood, who has a 1 hit 20 strikeout performance on his resume, announced his retirement. Wood faced his final batter on Friday & promptly struck him out, leading to a fantastic ovation for Kerry in Wrigley Field.
Pivotal game 3 between Rangers & Devils this afternoon - The New York Rangers & New Jersey Devils are tied 1-1 in their Eastern Conference Finals battle. With the West all but wrapped up, the Kings leading the Coyotes 3-0, the East is where you will have to turn for NHL playoff drama. A battle of 2 elite goalies is the story here as both Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers & Martin Brodeur for the Devils can control a game on their own. The game is in New Jersey, but since these two teams play so close to each other, I wouldn't be surprised if there were more than just a few Rangers fans in the crowd. I still think, overall, the Rangers are the better team & will be the Eastern Conference champions when it's all said & done.
Spurs look to take comanding 3-0 lead over Clippers - The Spurs have barely broken a sweat against the Los Angeles Clippers in their 2nd round matchup & look to take another step closer to putting the Clippers out of their misery. Chris Paul has not played well in the 1st 2 games, while Blake Griffin has been exposed as a less than complete big man. I really don't think the Clippers have a chance, even if they are at home. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, & Tony Parker are on a mission to make a good final run for a championship. Another ring for Duncan would just cement him even further as one of the greatest big men of all-time.