As the ESPN announcer mentioned during today's broadcast of 76ers-Celtics Game 4, the word "unbelievable" is thrown around sometimes too often in today's world.
It is completely apropos when discussing the Sixers' second-half rally against the Boston Celtics.
After falling behind early, as bad as 18-3 in the first quarter and 46-31 at the half, the Sixers used clutch shooting and oppressive defense to overwhelm Boston in the final 24 minutes of play. After shooting 23% in the first half, Philadelphia came back to shoot nearly 50% from the field including 5-7 from three-point land.
Evan Turner: C+
Evan may have scored 16 points, but the man was in an offensive slump tonight as he went a dreadful 5-22 from the field.
He consistently turned possessions into regrets by either throwing up a prayer or getting his shot blocked, which meant he wasn't able to create opportunities—only one assist—for his teammates. He did, however, play a scrappy game in which he collected nine rebounds.
Andre Iguodala: A+
It's as if someone put a magical charge into Andre Iguodala.
Since these playoffs started, he's done nothing but hit clutch shots, whether it be two late free throws against Chicago or key jumpers in this series against Boston. Instead of pulling a "King James" over the last two weeks, Iggy has become the go-to man when the Sixers need a big basket late.
His eight fourth-quarter points were huge. If I had to say anything negative, it would be to try and cut down on the ridiculous trick passes that result in turnovers.
After an impressive offensive display in Game 3, Thad responded with another strong performance in Game 4 as he crashed the boards, created opportunities for his teammates and hit big shots when it mattered.
He had 12 points on 4-8 shooting, nine rebounds and three assists as he played nearly the entire fourth quarter due to his ability to create second-chance opportunities—he had five offensive rebounds.
Lou Williams: A-
It's hard to give Lou a higher grade here because of his ineptitude in the first half, even if it may have just been a result of his entire team's lousiness.
He responded, however, with two key traditional three-point plays and perhaps, the most important pass of his life, by penetrating and dishing to the wing for an Iguodala three-pointer with 36 seconds left. He struggled defensively once again but was able to stay contained and not give the Celtic guards too many opportunities at the line.
Lavoy Allen: A-
Allen played very well once again, showing that he is ready to take on a much bigger role next year in the frontcourt rotation. He simply baffled Kevin Garnett all night long, limiting the Celtics future Hall of Famer to a series-low nine points on only 3-12 shooting and seven turnovers. Allen also added five defensive and five offensive rebounds, cleaning up opposing misses and creating second-chance opportunities.
Brand and Hawes have been criticized a lot for their play and rightfully so; they've been dreadful offensively and haven't been able to contain KG when they're matched up against one another.
Doug Collins responded to the fan outrage by playing Young and Allen in much larger roles over Elton and Spencer. They played a combined 31 minutes, and while they showed some improvement at both ends of the floor, neither contributed enough to receive a higher grade.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Iguodala's Wing Three-Pointer (0:36—4th Quarter)
This was Iguodala's final shot of the game, where Lou Williams made a beautiful drive and an equally nice pass to the wing where Andre sunk a key three-pointer to put the Sixers up by five (88-83).
Lou Williams' Three-Point Play (2:47—3rd Quarter)
There were two instances in the third quarter where Lou Williams drew a foul, stepped to the side and sunk an off-balance jumper for the "And 1." The first came with 2:47 left in the third quarter and brought Philly within three points for the first time since early in the first quarter. Sweet Lou's efforts were the reason the 76ers were still hanging around by the fourth quarter.
KEYS TO THE WIN
1. It Just Takes Clutch Shooting
Just ask the Miami Heat.
You can have all the talent in the world and outclass your opponent for 24-36 minutes. But when the time comes in a close game, and you don't have a "go-to" guy, all that talent is wasted and irrelevant.
While the Celtics aren't exactly a bunch of chokers, they simply didn't have the desire or the smoothness Philadelphia had down the stretch. Whether it was a Sweet Lou splash from three-point land or an Iguodala high-arc shot, Philadelphia made their jumpers, their threes and their layups in the final 18 minutes.
2. A Second Chance Never Hurts
The Philadelphia 76ers had 17 offensive rebounds.
Boston had five.
Are you still confused why the home team came back? The Sixers scored 14 points off of those second-chance opportunities, and whether they scored or not off of those offensive rebounds, every new shot clock wore down the Celtics defense or forced another Celtic foul—they had 28 as a team.
Boston's strength has never been rebounding, so the Sixers need to take advantage of that and control each team's misses to create transition and put-back opportunities.
3. KG: A Non-Factor
What a difference Kevin Garnett makes.
Before I go psychoanalysis on you, let's just present the most telling statistic of the series: In the two games Boston has won, Kevin Garnett is 24-37 (64.8 percent from the field), is averaging 28 points per game and has committed only three turnovers. In the games Philadelphia has won, however, KG is only shooting 10-24 (41.7 percent), averaging 12 points per game and has committed 11 turnovers.
When Lavoy Allen's minutes aren't limited like they were in Game 3, the Celtics are a completely different team. KG can't hit the elbow jumper with as much consistency, and their offensive flow is disrupted as a whole.
Now, we can't overlook Philadelphia's first-half struggles, but if the second half represents signs to come, then fans can take an optimistic outlook for Game 5 in Boston.
Player of the Game
I said all that needs to be said in the grades section: Andre showed up, hit his clutch shots and propelled his team to a win. Getting Iggy Wit' It?