76ers Take Game 6

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Going into game 6 between the Celtics and 76ers in Philadelphia, much of the media’s spotlight was shining on Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who had slithered his way into the headlines by publicly declaring the Philly fans “fair-weather.” True, the Sixers’ season long attendance doesn’t match up well against Boston’s, and Celtics fans are notorious for their fervour, but the jab seemed harsh and unnecessary. When their team’s playing well, Philly fans are as loud as any. Just ask Allen Iverson, who presented the ball before last night’s game and, despite a tumultuous recent history, was cheered raucously. Garnett’s comments, besides adding a meagre subplot to a series paling in intensity next to Indiana vs Miami, merely cemented his reputation as one of the league’s most hated villains and bullies. The question remained, however, as to whether his words would put the 76ers off their game, or spur them to a rousing home victory in front of a wildly supportive crowd.

By the end of the second quarter, it looked as though KG had not only put the 76ers off their game, but his own team as well. ‘Tough to watch’ doesn’t begin to describe the first half. Both teams were bricking shots left, right, and centre. Game 5’s hero, Brandon Bass, seemed shockingly unable to convert on open looks. Andre Iguodala missed each of his four free throws, including one that he rattled off the backboard. KG himself was clanking wide open looks between converting on a couple tough jumpers. But it wasn’t all bad. Some might argue that good defence was being played by both sides, despite the multitude of open (and missed) looks. Also, the brief Allen Iverson interview was fantastic. The half finished 36-33 Boston.

The third quarter began far more optimistically. Both team made a few jumpers, and started attacking the rim. Iguodala served up an absolute facial on Paul Pierce, and converted his first free throw of the evening. With sighs of gratitude, fans stopped gouging their eyes out in the stands.

By the six minute mark, the Sixers had fought their way back into the lead, and the fair-weather Philly fans were roaring. Their team was finding ways of getting to the middle and creating quality looks, and then knocking a few of them down. Spencer Hawes in particular swooped into the game and put together back to back jumpers, stabilizing his team. Getting scoring from a number of sources, the Sixers nearly tripled their 11 point second quarter output with a 27 point third. But despite finally managing to get some points on the board, Philadelphia was proving to be their own worst enemy. They shot an abysmal percentage from the free throw line, and allowed themselves to be utterly dominated on the offensive glass. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, Boston was shooting at around 30%, but remained well within striking distance of the lead.

As the fourth began, however, the Sixers put some distance between themselves and their rivals. They still weren’t connecting on many free throws, but played tough, gritty defence, frustrating the Celtics and causing turnover after turnover. Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday began to weave their respective ways inside, hitting on a couple fancy layups and smooth floaters. KG knocked down a couple mid range Js to keep Boston nail-bitingly close, but couldn’t find enough help from his teammates, and the Sixers, especially the silky Jrue Holiday, looked fairly comfortable. They hit their final four free throws to put the Celtics away 82-75.

Despite a tedious first half, it was a game to remember for the Sixers and their fans. Boston showed veteran savvy and grit throughout, and wouldn’t let the home side explode to an insurmountable lead. But with both Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo playing fairly minor roles, Philly ended up cruising, giving their faithful plenty of time to show off their vocal chords and heckle Garnett. Game seven will be played in Boston on Saturday, and history is certainly on the Celtics side. They are 17-4 all time in game sevens at home. One of those losses, though, came against the Doctor J-led Sixers in 1982, a fact that Philadelphia coach Doug Collins has already brought to his team’s attention.

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