BOSTON The Boston Celtics had another solid showing in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough as Philadelphia evened up their best-of-seven series with the C's at 1-1 following an 82-81 win. The Celtics outscored the Sixers by seven points in the fourth, but the C's usually stingy defense gave up a very un-Celtic like 25 points.
Beating the Celtics in a game that came down to the wire not only helps Philadelphia in terms of the series, but provides a nice jolt of confidence as they head home for Games 3 and 4.
"I think we're growing; we have a young team," said Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday. "We like playing against Boston. We think we match up well against them and even though they had a smart play at the end of Game 1, ya know we still had a chance in that game so that's definitely a confidence booster."
Philadelphia's ability to withstand the Celtics' fourth quarter defensive crush was a major factor in the game's outcome. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how they actually played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Paul Pierce can't move about as well as he would like to, courtesy of a sprained MCL in his left knee. However, he is finding other ways to make an impact for the Celtics. In Game 1, he missed eight of his 11 shots but still grabbed six rebounds and had six assists in addition to blocking two shots.
WHAT WE SAW: Pierce was about as ineffective as we've seen him in a playoff game, scoring just seven points on 2-for-9 shooting from the field. "Paul clearly is not 100 percent," said C's coach Doc Rivers. Even though Pierce wasn't moving nearly as well as he's used to and struggled to control the ball when he did penetrate into the lane - he had a team-high five turnovers - he wasn't about to use his knee as an explanation for his poor performance. "The knee was fine," he said, adding that he wore a knee brace during the game.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Elton Brand: Both of these are more than overdue for a breakout game for their respective teams. Bass has been more hesitant lately to shoot, often a sign of a player whose confidence isn't quite where it was earlier. As for Brand, he's a victim of the Celtics' small ball lineup cutting his minutes, and emergence of rookie Lavoy Allen (12 points on 5-for-7 shooting in Game 1) and the solid play of Spencer Hawes (15 points, eight rebounds) around the basket. "EB (Brand) was struggling a little bit, and Lavoy was playing great (in Game 1)," said Sixers coach Doug Collins. "I think the guys know that at this point in time, I have to go with the guys that are playing well." In Game 1, Brand had four ponts and one rebound in 15 minutes.
WHAT WE SAW: It looked as though Bass would dominate this matchup from the outset, as he knocked down his first three shots while Brand only made three shots (in five attempts) the entire game. However, things soon went south for Bass and the Celtics, as he went on to miss 10 of his next 12 shots and finished with 12 ponts on 5-for-15 shooting. As for Brand, he only had seven points, but he was among the Sixers defenders who helped limit Kevin Garnett to 15 points - almost half of what he had averaged in Boston's two previous games.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ray Allen did more for the Celtics in Game 1 than his 12 points might have indicated. His mere presence opened things up for Garnett around the basket, along with creating better driving lanes for Rajon Rondo (13 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds). The Celtics were a plus-17 with Allen on the floor, far and away the best plusminus ratio of the 19 players for both teams to see action.
WHAT WE SAW: Allen was once again coming up with some big shots, but he wasn't able to deliver the dagger-like basket that the C's have grown so used to him providing. He finished with a team-high 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting.
STAT TO TRACK: Despite out-rebounding Philadelphia 45-41 in Game 1, the Sixers still had a decisive edge (15-6) in second-chance points. The Sixers ranked 23rd in second-chance points during the regular season, and are 10th (among 16 teams) in the playoffs. For the C's, Game 1 was indicative of their inability all season to capitalize on multiple-shot opportunities. The Celtics were dead-last (out of 30 teams) with 9.9 second-chance points per game, during the regular season. They haven't been much better in the playoffs, averaging just 8.7 second-chance points per game which ranks 14th (out of 16 teams).
WHAT WE SAW: Philadelphia controlled the boards most of the night and finished with a 47-36 advantage. The rebounds achieved a couple of things. First, it kept the Celtics from getting out and attempting to score in transition, evident by the Celtics having just six fast-break points. And the offensive rebounds - Philly had 11 of them - didn't necessarily generate much offense. But just as important, it meant the C's had to play defense for a longer stretch of time and that, over time, had to wear down those seasoned bones.