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).

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights from the TD Garden as Devin Booker had a historic performance where he scored 70 points, but it wasn't enough to get the win over the Celtics.

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

BOSTON – Stacking wins on top of wins is the mindset of the Boston Celtics right now, so the players who did speak to the media following Friday’s 130-120 win over Phoenix drove that point home emphatically.

But inside the locker room, it was unusually quiet, the kind of silence you expect following a loss.

Considering how the Celtics’ defense was absolutely thrashed by Devin Booker’s franchise record 70 points, there’s no question at a minimum the Celtics’ pride overall was stung.

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And when Suns coach Earl Watson began calling time-outs and having his team commit fouls at the end of the game, there’s no question it rubbed a few Celtics the wrong way.

“I don’t think anybody has ever seen that; continuing to call time-outs, continuing to foul when we are up 15. But I mean, it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him (Booker) the most points possible. Hat off to to him (Booker). He played a hell of a game.”

Following the game, Watson defended his late-game decision making.

“Calling time-outs at the end kept the game close,” he said. “It’s basketball; I’m not coming to any arena to be liked. If people don’t like us while we build … so what? Do something about it.”

The Suns (22-51) never came any closer than 10 points, which was the final score margin.

Al Horford acknowledged that there was some aggravation following the game.

“You can be frustrated when somebody is doing that to you,” he said. “It’s not to one guy, it’s to the team so I think we’re probably more aggravated at ourselves, at least personally I feel that way. I probably could have done a little better, maybe done some different things to prevent it. We got to give him credit, 70 points, I don’t care it’s 70, he got 70. It’s impressive.”

But there will be some inside the Celtics locker room and among their fan base, who were bothered by the Suns’ late-game actions which seemed more focused on Booker getting numbers than anything else.

When asked about being disrespected by the Suns’ late-game strategy, Thomas wanted no part of that conversation.

“It is what it is,” Thomas said. “We won the game. We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery.”

 Boom!