Sixers facing elimination after Game 5 defeat


BOSTONAll season long Doug Collins has been quick to point out the importance of the third quarter. The third quarter, he pointed out before the series began, was the frame in which the Celticsstatistically speakingplayed their best basketball.
Collins was at it again and talking about the importance of the third quarter about an hour before tipoff of Monday nights Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the TD Garden. The winner of every game to that point in the series had won the third quarter every time.
That did not change with the Celtics 101-85 victory to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series (see Lynam's Instant Replay).
By turning the momentum of the game during the third quarter on Monday night, the Celtics are on the cusp of closing out the series on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center. In fact, the Sixers and Celtics can point to one play as the turning point of Game 5 and maybe even the series, too.
With 8:00 to go in the third quarter and the Sixers clinging to a four-point lead, Andre Iguodala stole a pass from Kevin Garnett and was streaking to the basket when Paul Pierce was whistled for a clear-path foul. With two shots and the ball, the Sixers had a chance to put together a nice run early in the third that could have propelled them through that all-important quarter.
But Iguodala missed both foul shots and when the Sixers got the ball back, Spencer Hawes threw it away. When Garnett hit a 17-footer on the other end, the Sixers lead was chopped to two points.
They cranked up their defense and we got careless with the ball, Collins said. They had 44 points in the paint and shot 33 free throws. They were the aggressors, but it really started after that clear-path foul.
If the Sixers faux pas would have stopped there, they might have been able to weather the Celtics storm. Instead, they dug themselves into a bigger hole. From the 8:00 mark until Lou Williams hit a 19-footer with 4:37 left in the third quarter, the Sixers had six possessions. Five of those ended with a turnover and a sixth was a missed shot by Thad Young all of which led to a 10-0 run by the Celtics.
Instead of an eight-point lead after the clear-path foul, the Sixers were down by six points. When the third quarter ended, the Celtics led by nine points after outscoring the Sixers, 28-16.
It seemed to be the turning point for us, Iguodala said of missing the two clear-path foul shots. Thats the way the game goes sometimes. Its kind of like gods give you an opportunity to do something and you lose that opportunity and they take advantage of it and it hurt us.
Ball game.
I thought we had a good grasp on the game, I really did, Collins said. It went downhill quickly.
It went downhill a lot like a runaway shopping cart with a bad wheel through a deserted parking lot. As the Celtics continued to build momentum on backdoor dunks and midrange jumpers from Brandon Bass, who had 18 points in the third quarter, the Sixers missed their first seven shots of the fourth quarter. A 9-2 run by the Celtics was enough to stretch the lead to 16 and put the Sixers away.
In holding down Ray Allen and Paul Pierce defensively, Bass was able to step up for the Celtics with a game-high 27 points.
They did a good job with our coverage as we were making a conscious effort to try and keep Paul Pierce down and Bass did a good job stringing us out and making some plays along the baseline, Collins said. They were just quicker to the basket. Bass didnt depend on just his jump shot. He got some dunks and got in the paint and that opened up the basket. All of a sudden that basket looks a lot bigger for that jump shot. He must have had four or five dunks tonight.
After a poor showing in Game 4, Garnett bounced back with 20 points. He scored 14 of those points during the first half when the Sixers shot the ball at a 55 percent clip from the field and rushed out to a six-point lead.
Its usually a telltale sign when the Sixers shoot the ball well early in the game, yet cant build a big lead. This time the Sixers were hitting the offensive glass to go with the above-average shooting. It should have been a chance for the Sixers to put the game away, however, Boston stayed close because of opportunities from the foul line.
In Game 4 the Sixers attempted 21 foul shots in the first half and 30 through the first three quarters to stay close when they were shooting poorly. In Game 5 the Celtics outshot the Sixers 13-2 from the line during the first half and then got 20 more foul shots during the second half.
Late in the fourth, Collins got hit with a technical foul.
The officials let them play basketball and that caused us to get out of whack a little bit, Iguodala said. From there we were just trying to get back in it all at once and that just compounded the situation. Weve been in that situation before and dealt with it better, but playing on the road we just couldnt get out of it.
The Sixers have one day to get out of it before Wednesdays Game 6. In order to save the season and force an epic Game 7 back at the Garden, the Sixers will have to take gifts like clear-path fouls and use it to their advantage.
Of course, the Sixers havent lost two games in a row through 11 postseason games.
It will definitely be tough against this team, Iguodala said. We have to believe in ourselves and focus in and get it done in Game 6.
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