Over the first two games of this Eastern Conference semifinal matchup, the Sixers have shown that they can play with the veteran Celtics.
There were certainly frustrating stretches of ball, but overall, you can't be anything but pleased with the Sixers' play thus far. Most importantly, Philadelphia took home-court advantage from Boston by winning Game 2.
Until the 76ers' win tonight, no team had won a road game in this matchup this season. This was also Boston's first loss at home in the playoffs. They were previously 4-0.
To win championships, you have to win on the road, you have to play great defense and you have to step up in the biggest moments.
Philly has now won two road games against two teams that combined for a home winning percentage of 75.8. They are ranked third in points allowed per game with 85.4, behind only Miami and Boston. As for the big moments? We'll get to that later.
I don't foresee the Sixers winning the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy this season (does anyone?), but for a team looking to learn how it's done for the future, you have to love what you're seeing.
They caught a break in Round 1 with the injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but they found a way to win, and that's all that matters. The team, analysts and fans set an expectation for this team to get out of the first round. Perhaps it didn't happen like we thought it would, but it did and the city of Philadelphia should be proud.
Everything from here on out is a bonus.
Every positive and every negative is a bonus. Every meltdown and every clutch stretch is a bonus.
The 76ers played a solid game in Game 1 until the fourth quarter, when they settled for long jumpers and took some ill-advised shots. They blew a 13-point lead, they came back from a five-point deficit. They came away with a hard-fought loss, and they learned.
Game 2 was similar to Game 1. The Sixers played a hard-fought game. They made mistakes (18 turnovers); they made improvements (won the rebounding battle 47-36).
The key, though, was how they played in the fourth quarter—especially in the latter stages of the game, aka the big moments.
They learned from their errors in Game 1, and they executed much better late and played incredibly stingy defense.
Seemingly everyone contributed when it mattered. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner were clutch when the team needed scores. Turner, Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks combined to go 6-of-6 from the line with under a minute remaining. Lavoy Allen played great defense on Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce scored zero points in the fourth—thanks to the defensive effort of Andre Iguodala.
When's the last time the Celtic captain was shut out in the fourth quarter of a playoff game, let alone a close game when they needed him most?
Say what you want about the aesthetics of these games, but the young 76ers are starting to show that they know what it takes to win in the playoffs.
If you follow this team, you have to be excited for their future.
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