Sixers win 82-81, tie series

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Sixers win 82-81, tie series

BOSTON The Boston Celtics' "small ball" lineup once again came up huge in the fourth quarter.

Philadelphia refused to let another strong performance go to waste as they held on for an 82-81 game 2 victory. The series is now tied at 1-1, with games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.

The C's got a slew of big shots down the stretch, but the Sixers were able to match or surpass those buckets with their own big plays.

Ray Allen had a chance to put the C's ahead with less than a minute to play, but his step-back jumper rimmed in and out as the Sixers grabbed yet another rebound.

Allen and Kevin Garnett hit a couple of 3's in the game's final seconds, but it was too little too late as the C's now must win at least one game in Philadelphia to move on to the Eastern Conference finals.

There were a slew of turning point moments, with none looming as large as the blocking call by official Michael Smith on Kevin Garnett with 10 seconds to play and the Celtics trailing, 78-75.

For most of the game, the Celtics needed someone, anyone, to breath some life into a team that seemed to be in what C's coach Doc Rivers calls "Cool Celtics" mode.

Boston got that much needed lift from Mickael Pietrus, who was more than overdue for a big game shooting the ball.

After missing two of his first three shots, he finally got a 3-pointer to go down that cut Philadelphia's lead down to three points.

Moments later, he drilled a second 3-pointer to cut the Sixers lead down to just two points.

For several possessions, the C's just couldn't get that one big shot they needed to take control of the game from Philadelphia.

After a dunk by Avery Bradley (he missed the entire third quarter when he re-aggravated his left shoulder), a slew of empty possessions for the Celtics were came between a pair of free throws by Thaddeus Young and a tightly contested 17-foot, step-back jumper by Andre Iguodala that put Philly ahead, 65-61.

Boston cut the deficit in half with a jumper by Garnett, and tied the game at 65 on a tough 3-foot turn-around from Garentt with 4:33 to play.

After seemingly coasting through the first half, the wheels began to fall off for the Celtics in the third quarter as Philadelphia went on a 10-2 run to take their largest of the game at that point, 51-47, with 2:37 to play in the third.

The Sixers weren't done.

They reeled off six more points to take their first double-digit lead of the game, 57-47. Pierce cut the deficit down to eight following a pair of free throws with 2.4 seconds in the third which ended with the C's behind 57-49.

The beginning of the game was a 180-degree turn for the Celtics compared to how they began Game 1, as they jumped out to a 9-0 lead on Monday that put the Sixers on their heels quickly.

Philadelphia fought back, and even took the lead in the second quarter on two separate occasions (29-27 and 36-35).

However, the C's got a rare 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds to play in the half which ended with the Celtics on top, 38-36.

Boston's Brandon Bass, who has had his struggles throughout the playoffs shooting the ball, came out and made his first three shots - all jumpers.

From there, it only got worse as he went the rest of the half without a made field goal despite taking nine more shots for a 3-for-12 shooting line at the half.

For too many stretches in the first half, the Sixers took a lot of Josh Smith-like shots (bad shots, early in the shot clock) that contributed to them spending most of the first half trailing.

The one Philly player who seemed to be in a good flow shooting the ball for most of the first half was point guard Jrue Holiday who is in the score-first mold of today's playmakers.

He had 13 points at the half on 5-for-9 shooting along with three assists and just one turnover.

Rajon Rondo usually saves his best for the second half, but he too had a decent first half with four points, eight assists and three rebounds.

Boston started the third without Avery Bradley, who re-aggravated a sore left rotator cuff injury. Replacing him with the first group was Ray Allen, the may that Bradley replaced in the starting lineup.

The C's forced four turnovers in less than three minutes, but they had little to show for it with their lead increasing to no more than five points (43-38).

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Rose looking like his old self

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Rose looking like his old self

BOSTON – The New York Knicks have been in a massive funk of late, something the Boston Celtics had to know which, not surprisingly, would result in them playing with a heightened level of desperation.

That desperation left the Celtics a bit exasperated at the half which ended with a 10-2 run by New York that put them ahead 63-54 at the half.

After falling behind by as many as nine points in the second quarter, the Celtics rallied to within a single point (53-52) following a basket by Isaiah Thomas.

The second quarter was all-New York afterwards.

It was just a one-possession game (Boston led 34-31) for the Celtics going into the second quarter, which was exactly where Boston didn’t want to be against a Knicks team whose bench ranks among the NBA’s highest-scoring second units recently. In their last three games, the Knicks’ bench has averaged 43.0 points per game which according to hoopsstats.com, ranks sixth in the NBA during that span.

At the half, they had 33 points compared to just 12 for Boston’s backups.

Boston fell behind early 9-5, but the Celtics rallied following a time-out with a 15-4 run capped off by a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas.

The Celtics’ lead peaked at nine points on separate occasions in the first, but the Knicks closed out the first with a 12-6 spurt that cut Boston’s lead to 34-31 at the end of the first.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.

 

STARS

Derrick Rose

The former league MVP looked like his old self tonight instead of just old. He led the Knicks with 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

Isaiah Thomas

The Knicks had great success inside the paint against all the Celtics minus Thomas who did much of his dirty work offensively on drives to the basket. At the half he had 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

 

STUDS

Willy Hernangomez

Boston had problems rebounding the ball, and Hernangomez was the main reason why. At the half he had 10 points and six rebounds, three of which were offensive boards.

Jae Crowder

Dealing with Carmelo Anthony is enough to keep Crowder busy tonight. But he’s doing that at a high level in addition to providing a nice punch offensively with 14 points.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas

You may not know his name, but his game was pretty impressive in the first half. At the half, he had nine points.

 

DUDS

Al Horford

We’ve seen him air-ball a 3-pointer, miss a lay-up and strguggle to get any shots to go down tonight. At the half, he had three points while missing nine of his 10 shot attempts.

Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

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Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

BOSTON – Both New York and Boston will take to the floor tonight minus a starter courtesy of a sore Achilles injury.

For Celtics guard Avery Bradley, tonight will be the fifth time in the last six games that his right Achilles injury will keep him sidelined.

Meanwhile, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis will miss his fourth straight game with a sore left Achilles injury.

The 7-foot-3 Porzingis averages 19.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

Porzingis’ absence tonight was established well before tip-off.

“I’d say I’m 90 percent ready; still not there yet,” Porzingis told reporters prior to the game. “But I’m getting closer … hopefully the next game or after the next game.”

As far as Bradley is concerned, he was a last-minute matter.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about his roster earlier tonight, and indicated Tyler Zeller (sinus) and James Young (ankle) would be on the inactive list tonight with injuries.

Without Bradley, the Celtics are expected to start Marcus Smart who has filled in as the team’s starter previously when the 6-foot-2 Bradley was unavailable.

 Bradley is the Celtics' second-leading scorer with 17.7 points per game this season, along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists.