Celtics' experience trumps 76ers' youth in crunch time

Celtics' experience trumps 76ers' youth in crunch time
May 13, 2012, 5:04 am
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BOSTON When it comes to playoff experience, it has a way of popping up when you least expect it.

That certainly was the case in Boston's 92-91 Game 1 win over Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics' edge in veteran savvy appeared to play out in the pivotal fourth quarter.

A lay-up by Kevin Garnett with 2:52 to play gave the Celtics an 85-84 lead. They would maintain that lead for the rest of the game, the longest stretch of the night in which the C's were ahead.

Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala said afterward that the loss was "a little bit frustrating" when you consider that for most of the night, the Sixers were in control.

Despite trailing most of the night, C's coach Doc Rivers never sensed there was any panic or fear in his team that they couldn't come back and at the very least, give themselves a chance to win.

"It's funny, when we cut the lead the first time and then they pumped it back up to seven, nine, I'm not sure what it was, I didn't feel bad about the game," Rivers said. "I didn't know if we were going to win or lose; I did feel like mentally our guys were still very much in the game. And, to me, that's a good sign. That doesn't mean you're going to win it, but that means you're going to stay in it and you're going to keep playing the right way."

The Sixers' inability to close out the game down the stretch can be attributed to many things, with the experience gap between the two teams near the top of that list.

"We have to grow from these situations," Iguodala said. "We have a lot of young guys who play a lot of minutes for us. So, end of games, end of halves, those situations and scenarios you can only learn in the situations in the playoffs."

For Boston, Saturday's win was like a refresher course in getting it done in the clutch 101.

It just seemed that when the game was anyone's for the taking, Boston made all the right moves whether it was Rondo drilling a go-ahead jumper, to the C's getting the ball deep into the post to Kevin Garnett, or how they were able to run out the clock at the very end as Rajon Rondo out-ran Evan Turner.

"Experience showed a little bit, especially showed a little bit, especially with the plays they made," Iguodala said. "They knew exactly what they were going to get into and execute it. When we had our two minutes where we really didn't get anything good at the basket, that showed we were trying to figure out what we were going to do. By the time we figured it out, there was five or six seconds on the shot clock and we'd get up a bad shot. But they executed, so in that area we can learn from."