Saturday, May 04, 2002

BOSTON - Paul Pierce didn't need the ghosts of Celtics' past to help his team win the 5th and deciding game of their series against the visiting 76ers, but it certainly didn't hurt that they made an appearance at the FleetCenter anyway.

In an amazing offensive outburst which set a Celtics' franchise record for number of 3-point field goals made in a playoff game, the home team shot an incredible 19-29 (66%) from behind the 3-point arc, as the Celtics proceeded to finish off the 76ers by demolishing them, 120-87, to win the series 3-2. The Celtics will move on to play the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, with Game 1 at the Palace at Auburn Hills set for Sunday afternoon.

The front-running Celtics jumped on the visitors early, taking a 13-3 lead. The Sixers never led the entire game, as they constantly played a game of catch-up. They managed to answer Boston's early run with a 13-2 run of their own, to bring themselves within 1 point as the Celtics led 16-15. The first quarter ended with the home team leading 27-22, with Pierce (14 first quarter points) and Iverson (11 first quarter points) leading the way for their respective teams.

Iverson and Pierce engaged in a fierce dual in the 2nd quarter, as each managed to parry the other's blow, at least early on. There were five ties in a span of 3 minutes early in the 2nd quarter, and the score was tied 39-39 with just over 7 minutes remaining in the half. It would be the last time the game would be tied, as Paul Pierce, nailed a 3-pointer that put the Celtics up 42-39. Pierce nailed another 3-pointer late in the half, and the Celtics led at halftime, 59-47. Pierce had 29 points in the first half, coming within one point of tying the Celtics' franchise playoff record for points scored in a half (held by Celtics' legends John Havlicek and Larry Bird), while Iverson did everything he could to keep his team in the game with 20 first-half points.

The teams played a tightly contested 3rd quarter that was capped with Iverson hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Celtics took a 77-67 lead into the final frame. And then the explosion came.

In a performance that will likely go down as one of the most amazing shooting displays ever in the FleetCenter's young playoff history, the Celtics hit an amazing 9 of 10 from behind the arc in the 4th quarter. Paul Pierce (career playoff high 46 points, 16-25 shooting) led the way, and broke a Celtics' team playoff record in the process (which, coincidentally was set in Game 3 of this series by teammate Antoine Walker, in a losing effort), by going a remarkable 8-10 from beyond the arc. In fact, nearly every shot that the Celtics threw up seemed to go in, whether the shooter was Antoine Walker (26 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists), Eric Williams (17 points, 3-3 from behind the arc), or even little-used reserve Kedrick Brown (1-1 from 3-point range). When Brown hit his 3-pointer with just over a minute to go, it gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 36 points.

Pierce was clutch in the fourth quarter, drilling three 3-pointers in a span of two minutes, to put his team up, 106-82 with just over 4 minutes to go, and the rout was on. With just under four minutes to go, Larry Brown called a timeout, and waved the white flag by inserting his reserves. Celtics head coach Jim O'Brien did the same shortly afterward, and Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker both left the game, to standing ovations of the 18,624 in attendance in the party-like atmosphere that ensued at the FleetCenter.

The Celtics poured it on in the 4th quarter, absolutely demolishing the visitors. Their smothering defense, which led to 14 turnovers (compared to a series-low 5 for the home team), which the Celtics were able to convert to 17 points. In fact, the Celtics led in nearly every statistical category when the game was on the line: bench points, 23-20; points in the paint 36-24; second chance points, 23-10.

After the game, Larry Brown was quick to say he was proud of the way his team hung in for most of the game. He blamed himself for the embarassment his team endured in the 4th quarter, as the Celtics outscored the visitors in the final frame (for the first time in this series), 43-20. "When you get beat by 33 points, you don't have to look farther than the guy on the bench," Brown said after the game. The rumors of Brown's possible departure will no doubt surround the 76ers organization during the coming off-season, which begins now as a result of their elimination.

Allen Iverson (31 points, 4 assists) was noticeably dejected after the game, as he was not able to get his team past the first round, as he has in the last 3 seasons. He shot a respectable 11-24 from the field, including 4-7 from beyond the arc. His teammates were not able to respond to the urgency of the situation however, as they shot a combined 17-47. The 76ers shot just below 40%, and allowed the Celtics to shoot over 50%, which proved to be a losing combination.

NOTES: The 76ers have never won a series in which they had to battle back from an 0-2 deficit. They were attempting to become only the 7th team in NBA history to battle back from such a deficit since the current playoff format was instituted. Their last attempt to do so, back in 1984, also came up short in the 5th and deciding game... The Celtics and Sixers were the only Atlantic Division teams to have winning road records during the regular season. Neither team won on the road in this series, and Philadelphia, despite going 21-20 in the regular season, finished with a disappointing 0-3 mark away from the First Union Center in the playoffs... The Celtics won their first playoff series in a decade. The last time they won in a decisive 5th game in Boston was in 1991, when they defeated the Indiana Pacers... The Celtics are now 64-25 all-time in the deciding game of a playoff series... Paul Pierce smashed the Celtics franchise playoff record for points scored in a 5-game playoff series, previously held by Larry Bird (122 points). Pierce's 46-point explosion in Game 5 gave him a total of 151 (an average of 30.2 per game) for the series... In the previous two seasons, the team that dethroned the defending Eastern Conference champs eventually went on to represent the East in the NBA Finals.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Great win for the 76ers yesterday, the big house down on Broad Street was definitely rockin. Phil Jasner covers the huge win. Great quote from Iverson: "People said this was going to be our going-away party tonight, so we let them know a little bit more. A lot of guys that don't know this game, never played this game, really, actually don't know what they're talking about." Take that Howard Eskin! I confronted Eskin after the game about his pre-game comments regarding trading the league's reigning MVP. Predictably, he had no comment, but was seen pleading with First Union Center general manager John Page to have me escorted out of the building. Sorry Howard, they generally don't like to treat season ticket holders, actual paying customers (as opposed to media suck-ups), in such a manner... Stephen A. Smith says Iverson showed tremendous heart by scoring the last 8 points for the Sixers, almost single-handedly forcing a decisive 5th game. Couple of zingers in Smith's article: "For those who believe Boston didn't suffer some serious psychological damage from what took place, well, they're just not paying attention." He concluded by saying "If the Celtics weren't shaking in their collective boots before last night, they certainly are, now. Or should we say, shimmying!" About one of the few times I wholeheartedly concur with Stephen A... Claire Smith says Philadelphia has reason to hope, and quotes Iverson as saying he's ready for the 20,000 (actually 18,000) vs. 12 odds... Sam Donnellon still thinks he's covering the Flyers, since his commentary on last night's game contains far too many hockey analogies... Paul Pierce was a bit taken back when he was told Larry Brown argued with the officials in Game 3 to not throw him out. "If I was the opposing coach, I'd want one of the opponent's top players out of there," said Pierce. See, Paul, on the one hand you have Larry Brown, a great example of class in this league. On the other side you have players yelling 'sweep, sweep' and not backing up those big words. Another example is your buddy 'Toine doing the "shimmy" after a barrage of three pointers. See the differene? Dikembe Mutombo takes a swipe at "Kobe Jordan" being named to the all-NBA first team... Ashley McGeachy Fox quotes Aaron McKie, speaking of Iverson, "I've been around stars, but he's in a league by himself." In the post-game press conference, Jim O'Brien says "this is a hell of a series."

Michael Gee says now we'll see what the Celtics are made of... Michael Holley quotes O'Brien saying "a series played this hard maybe should go down to five games." Holley went on to rip just about every answer given by the Celtics after Game 4... Peter May catches Iverson deflecting questions about the Sixers experience in deciding Game 7s in last year's playoffs. Iverson was quick to note, "Those games were in the crib," whereas Game 5 will be in Pierce and Walker's crib... Shira Springer says the "76ers spared no expense or effort in trying to create an intimidating atmosphere, from the decapitated Pierce bobblehead doll that was paraded out." We could have done without that, Hip-Hop. I can only imagine what the C's staff has planned for the "limited gold edition Iverson bobblehead doll" that's now out. Let's just hope the nobody on the C's staff stopped at a McDonald's before catching a charter back to Boston last night. Springer also noted "the way Snow stared down coach Jim O'Brien during an early timeout." I noticed this (and Springer seems to be the only media member from either city that wrote about this), and thought, if looks could kill, O'Brien would be a dead man right now. What was up with that Eric?

Marty Burns says the Sixers have finally joined the NBA post-season party... Jim Nolan,in a scene straight out of Animal House, reminds us that "nothing is over until we decide it is!" The ArenaVision staff at the First Union Center generally play this clip, and it was noticeably absent for the last 2 home games, when it would have seemed most appropriate... For those who are interested, in an email conversation with Sixers VP Dave Coskey, I learned that the rally towels handed out at home playoff games cost them "nearly $40,000 for a full set of rally towels." Note to Boston's promotions department: I know green is the "official color of the Boston Celtics," but those green rally towels aren't the most becoming color... The 76ers web site has this interesting Sixers-Celtics connections page, along with this Tale of Two Cities chart, which included the stereotypical "cheesesteaks vs. chowder" comparison.

ESPN.com provided this somewhat confusing breakdown of the probabilities in winning a 5-game vs. 7-game series (I'm still trying to understand the chart, and I was pretty good at math)... Speaking of Game 5s, this year, the top 3 seeds in the East have all been forced to 5th and deciding games. I don't have the record books handy, but I would have to say that's probably a first. Celtics and Sixers fans alike will probably be rooting for the underdogs in tonight's matchups. If both the Pistons and Nets fall, Boston would be the highest remaining seed in the Eastern conference. If the Raptors prevail, and the 76ers manage an upset in Boston tomorrow night, they would actually get to host Toronto in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference semi-finals match-up, with Game 1 on Sunday... Speaking of tonight's games, Reggie Miller says Game 5 "is really going to be fun for me." I'd be a bit scared if I was a Nets fan. And if I was a betting man, I would never, ever put money against Miller in a do-or-die playoff game... Dr. Jack Ramsay discusses why it's so hard for teams to win a deciding Game 5 on the road, and proceeds to give both the Raptors and Pacers advice on how to win the big one. Noticeably absent was advice for the Sixers, who have a Game 5 of their own to play tomorrow. I guess Jack didn't want to get excluded from this year's Thanksgiving and Christmas family get-togethers, so decided not to help Larry Brown find a way to beat his son-in-law... While I'm on the subject of tonight's games, jeers to both NBA and Turner Sports executives for spacing the games in the first round out over a span of two weeks, to avoid viewers from having to choose between two games, and then forcing those same viewers to decide between watching the closing moments of Game 5 between the Nets-Pacers and the start of the Raptors-Pistons finale... Marc Zumoff says the Sixers have to go into the FleetCenter with the attitude that they're going to win, and not let the pressure get to them... With the euphoria of the Sixers win, it's almost to forget that Bill Barber is the ex-coach of the Flyers. Asked for his take on the whole situation, Barber simply responded, "I just think that some of the things that were said were not very accurate and I would just rather not get into it." I guess he and Clarkie won't be grabbing a few brewskies any time soon... The latest poll revealing the most-visited sports web sites is out, and Dave's Sporting News hasn't made the list. C'mon, faithful readers, send this link to all your friends!
PHILADELPHIA - Allen Iverson and the rest of the Philadelphia 76ers are not about to give up their eastern conference title without a fight.

Philadelphia was led by Iverson and his game-high 28 points, in front of a raucous First Union Center crowd that was on its feet for most of the 4th quarter. In an amazing stretch of the game's last 80 seconds, he scored the Sixers last 8 points, capped by what would prove to be the game's winning free throws, with 1.6 seconds remaining, as the Sixers held on to win 83-81, evening this best-of-five series at 2-2. The fifth and deciding game will be back in Boston Friday night at the FleetCenter.

The Celtics, eager to take the rabid Philadelphia fans out of the game early, jumped out to an early 11-5 advantage. The Sixers, as would be expected, roared back and scored 8 straight, to take an early 13-11 lead, and the fans responded. However, on the next possession, Paul Perce would draw a foul, and would cap a three-point play, and the Celtics took the lead 14-13. It was a lead they would maintain for most of the first half.

With 1:35 remaining in the half, Aaron McKie (11 points) drilled a 3-pointer to give the Sixers a 36-35 lead. After an Iverson jumper and a Boston free throw, the 76ers went into the halftime with a narrow lead, 38-36.

As has happened throughout the series, Boston stormed back, going on a 13-4 run to begin the 3rd quarter, to take the lead 49-42. In a game marked by streaks caused by tenacious defense at both ends, the Sixers proceeded to go on an 8-0 run themselves, and took a brief lead 50-49. Paul Pierce helped the Celtics regain the lead by nailing a 3-pointer from outside, and Boston would hold onto the lead for most of the 3rd quarter. The Celtics would go into the final session leading 61-56.

The stage was set for a dramatic finish in the 4th quarter. Iverson would score 12 points in the game's final 12 minutes. With every Sixers basket, the roar of the home crowd would get louder and louder, and with every defensive stop, the rally towels would wave in a more feverish pace. In a quarter that would not see either team take more than a 4 point lead, the teams seemed to match every basket. Similar to what happened in Game 3, the Celtics even managed to take a lead late in the game, 77-75, thanks to the offensive rebounding of Paul Pierce (20 points, 7-16 shooting), who was fouled as he made a tip-in. The air seemed to go out of the crowd, as the reality that the Sixers season could be coming to an inglorious end began to settle in.

Iverson would have none of that, however. Aaron McKie would be fouled with a little over a minute remaining, giving the Sixers a chance to tie the game at the free throw line. His only trip to the foul line resulted in two uncharacteristic misses, but Iverson was there to grab the rebound and tie the game at 77. The Celtics had their chance to regain the lead, but Snow came up with a huge defensive steal, and fed a breaking Iverson, to put the home team up 79-77, causing near pandemonium amidst the nearly 21,000 in attendance. In the ensuing timeout, tempers flared once again, as McKie and Pierce were both nailed with technical fouls, undoubtedly for the jawing that had been going on between the two of them throughout the game.

Rodney Rogers tied the game at 79 by nailing a jumper, and the crowd was once again waiting with breathless anticipation. Allen Iverson would not be denied though, as he hit a 20-foot jumper to put the Sixers up for good, 81-79, with under 22 seconds to go. Boston would come up empty on its next possession, despite several attempts to tie the game, or even take the lead. Iverson was fouled and would seal the Celtics' fate by draining his final two free throws, which actually proved to be necessary, as Paul Pierce hit a 20-footer at the buzzer, to make the final score 83-81.

It was a game that was tightly contested, as evidenced by 13 lead changes and 9 ties. The defense would prove to be the difference in the game, as the Celtics were held under 40% shooting for the first time in this series. The Celtics continued to shoot the ball from behind the arc at a near-record setting pace, launching 29, but connecting on only 9. At 31%, that is the lowest they have shot from outside all series as well. As they have all season long, Boston has been living, and dying, on their outside shot. The low shooting percentage, combined with the Sixers aggressive defense, led to an advantage for the home team, as they were able to beat the Celtics in their transition game, outscoring them 20-9 on the break.

The Sixers finally managed to exert the presence in the paint, outrebounding the visitors by a margin of 43-37. They also won the battle of the paint for the first time in this series, outscoring the Celtics 34-24. They did this in spite of Dikembe Mutombo, who has struggled throughout the series. The Sixers were determined to get the ball to him in the post early on, and he marched to the free throw line, as the Celtics were not about to let him get easy uncontested baskets. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Mutombo did not capitalize from the charity stripe, going only 4-10. He also had 5 turnovers, which were caused by Boston's double coverage of him in the post.

NOTES: For the first time in 18 years, the Sixers have forced a decisive Game 5 after dropping the first two games of the series. Ironically, the last time they did so (1984), they were also coming off an NBA Finals appearance the year before... The 76ers are now 4-0 in Game 4 situations in the Larry Brown era. Conversely, the Celtics have not had much luck with Game 4s. They have never won a Game 4 in Philadelphia in any playoff series and are now 0-6... Fans were handed out 'Boston Strangler' posters, and Andrew Toney had a message for the Sixers faithful on the Jumbotron. One of Toney's most memorable performances was in a deciding Game 7 at old Boston Garden in 1982, a game that most experts gave the visiting Sixers no chance of winning. In a strange twist of fate, that game was the last time these two teams have met in a decisive game of a series.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

With the hectic schedule required to cover the Celtics-Sixers series, I have been forced to just collect links for the past several days. Today was the first opportunity I had to assemble them, so be prepared, there's lots of them! But first, more shameless plugs: check out my post-game write-ups of Games 2 and 3 below. The Game 4 write-up should get posted around midnight tonight, if all goes as planned. Onto the links...

Cedric Maxwell provided a quote that borders on bulletin board material. Following the 76ers Game 2 loss, he made a throat-slashing gesture and said "This series is over, Philadelphia. You can forget about this thing coming back to Boston. This could be over on Sunday." I bet Cedric the Entertainer is hoping those words don't come back to haunt him tonight... Peter May picked up where he left off, writing before Sunday's Game 3, "it's time to bring on the Pistons" (perhaps a bit premature on both counts, eh Peter? He even dusted this one off from the archives: "All that's missing now is Kevin McHale announcing that the Sixers have one foot in the grave and he's got the shovel and the dirt." Marc Zumoff suggests history is against a 76ers comeback, but also reminds us of the "Mutombo factor." Dikembe was one of the 5 teams in NBA history that has come back from an 0-2 deficit in the first round. The image of him clutching the ball on the floor after pulling of that upset in 1994 is sure to make its way onto telecasts this week should the Sixers force a Game 5... Larry Brown isn't getting much sleep these days, for reasons that have nothing to do with the 76ers. Apparently, he has a new little puppy at home with a small bladder (I can relate)... John Smallwood reminds us that Dikembe Mutombo has never been know for his offensive prowess. However, a just an eensy-weensy bit of defense would be nice in this series... Speaking of Mutombo, Iverson pleads with "the true fans" to get off of Deke's case, since that isn't going to help... I thought it was bad when early last month, 76ers mascot Hip-Hop was "officially" added to the injured list. Now the list includes GM Billy King. Early word is this should not affect Brown's lineup for Game 4 (Great quote: "There comes a time in every young man's life when he's better off being a general manager than a player.") Jill Porter warns us that "the city's fate clearly depends on tonight's 76ers game." And you thought Mayor Street was worried before...

John Smallwood joined the Iverson-bashing last week, along with Howard Eskin and many of his WIP comrades. Funny, similar thing happens with Jason Kidd missing a practice due to "cold symptoms," on the day of arguably one of the biggest games in the Nets' frachise history, and you don't hear the New York media calling for the MVP candidate to be traded for his "off-the-court antics." Smallwood also says that, from here on out, Iverson is "competing to keep his NBA life the way he knows it." Phil Jasner recounts that when Iverson was told that it was 76ers PR director Karen Frascona who informed the media of his "missing practice" last Thursday, he called her "a damn liar"... Dick Jerardi tells us why Larry Brown hates the 3-point line ("I think it's ruined the game"). Guess that explains why he hasn't brought in a real shooter since he's been here... As if the 76ers woes weren't bad enough last week, reserve Jabari Smith had to make a rather unseemly headline. I was still out of town covering Game 2, but I can just imagine the field day certain WIP hosts had with this one. Something tells me AI's name continued to get dragged through the mud... Iverson went off in an extended media interview last Friday, which is when his "franchise player" remarks were taken to mean he was shirking his responsibilities (for instance, see the Boston Globe's Rich Fisher). Why is it when he declines terms such as "franchise player," because he doesn't want to put himself above the team (which would seem to be a good thing), he's labeled as someone who doesn't "step up" and face his responsibility? Clearly, some in the local media have very short-term memories. Or was it Matt Geiger who got the 76ers to the Finals last year? Billy Lyon explains Iverson's understanding of the phrase "franchise player"... Fortunately, Iverson was able to step up to Stephen A. Smith's challenge in Game 3. Smith hopes the 76ers remember that in the off-season. Stephen also says the Celtics' "downplaying Sunday's outcome as just another loss with no lingering psychological effects whatsoever" is nonsense... Unfortunately, Eskin still decided to get on his "defending the media" soap box on Sunday's Sports Final and deliver an "open letter" to Iverson. Iverson, on surviving to play another game: "Guys understood if we lost this game, we were going to the crib."

Last week, Jim O'Brien joked that he was never again speaking to his father-in-law, Jack Ramsay, for picking the 76ers in to win this series. O'Brien "gained the utmost respect" of Antoine Walker, by attending the funeral of the All-Star forward's grandmother last February... O'Brien also is in favor of expanding the first round to a best-of-seven format... David Stern is now, as well. The commissioner hasn't always been in favor of changing the current format, fearing that the 1/8 matchups would lead to "four and out" series, but with the current parity in the league (the top 2 seeds in the East are playing in deciding Game 5s tomorrow night), anything more they can do to draw out the money, er, excitement, would be a bonus (Stern even said as much in that article. Quote: "What can I say? It's all about the money.") Now if only he can get Billy Hunter and the Player's Association to go along.... While in Boston, Stern also took the opportunity to explain the league's change to the 2-3-3 format in the NBA Finals, a move that was criticized by some in Boston at the time... Conpiracy theorists will be interested in knowing that NBA PR czar Brian McIntyre was scoping out the FleetCenter last week, "as a potential site for the coveted league finals." Note to Ray Allen: the fix is in... Michael Gee gives us a Mr. Robinson-like class. Today's word is: advantage... Marc Narducci chronicles the rise of Celtics GM Chris Wallace, and tells a story of how he, last summer, would drive by Boston neighborhoods, stopping at houses with basketball courts, and present the owners with a Celtics' net...

Bob Ryan says he'll still give Kenny Anderson a ride to their airport, but only if he wants one... Speaking of Anderson, he had nothing but sour grapes after losing Game 3 on Sunday, as is evident by the following post-game quotes: "The only reason and I really believe it, and I am not taking anything away from Philly [and then he proceeds to do just that by saying], we didn't get the calls. You can't cry about it [yet that's all he continues to do by saying], but we didn't get the calls. They called a few offensive fouls on Rodney (Rogers) at a crucial time of the game [actually, it was one offensive foul; they also called a 3-second violation on him with a minute remaining]. I don't even remember some of the calls out there [well then, how can you possibly complain about them?]. It was just bogus. [as is your complaining about officiating Kenny]." I think I'll give Kenny a ride to the airport now... Funny thing is, Coach O'Brien cleared the whole thing up the next day, as he acknowledged the reason for the free three discrepancy... Dan Shaughnessy said it best: "You're not going to go to the line as often as your opponent when 41 percent of your shots are 3-pointers." Paul Pierce decided to talk a bit of trash on Sunday, several times yelling out 'sweep, sweep.' Perhaps he was giving suggestions to the 76ers ball boys about dirty spots on the court... Gerry Callahan doesn't think so... Jim Baker says that Tommy Heinsohn would have claimed highway robbery had he called Game 3... Interesting, my dad and I caught Tommy catching a smoke right outside the FleetCenter, long after the game was over. We searched and searched for a place to eat, but found none, and this was in the surrounding blocks of the FleetCenter, and before 11 o'clock. Did Boston pass some curfew that I don't know about since I finished school there almost a decade ago?

The "verbal war" between Pacer's GM Donnie Walsh and former head coach Larry Bird continued last week. Walsh's latest volley: "You're down there playing golf. Come on up here and see what we're doing. In fact, I'll make a further challenge: Come into the NBA and try it again instead of talking about it." No love lost between those two... Bob Kravitz on the insufferable delays between games in the first round, and the "bulletin board" quotes that often follow, as a result of the media having nothing better to do than ask the same questions over and over. Best line: "They say an idle mind is the devil's workshop. I'm guessing God put that on his bulletin board."

Byron Scott admits his team "took the night off. We played like a team with a one-game cushion" against the Pacers last night. Game 5 is set for tomorrow night at the Meadowlands... K-Mart is a "Bad Ass Yellow Boy" (hey, not my words, it's his tattoo...) ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski says the Nets have to win their series... Peter Vescey disses KG, and provides his commentary on the first-round... Phil Mushnick hates everybody... Bruce Allen doesn't think Tom Brady is a one year wonder...

Bill Lyon on the downfall of the Flyers, who he describes as having "the most inept offensive stretch in the recorded history of ice hockey." He says the game has left the Flyers behind, and that the system has to change... Don McKee says it's a mistake to think that just dismissing the coach will cure the Flyer's many ills... Sam Donnellon at first had the opinion that "if you built it, you must go," but now has taken an "OK, you coach this sorry bunch of players since you're the one who brought them here" approach.. Tim Panaccio catches the Flyers airing all of their dirty laundry, the day before (former) coach Bill Barber was fired). Funny, these guys couldn't put the puck in the net to save their lives, but they seemed to land their shots at their coach just fine. I haven't seen that many guys not able to score since I was in high school... Rich Hofmann wonders when the revolving door of coaches will end... Claire Smith says Bill Barber was just the latest sacrificial lamb on the Flyers' altar... As if the news couldn't get much worse for Philadelphia sports fans over the past weekend, the Eagles lost Correll Buckhalter to a torn ACL in his left knee, which means he's likely out for all of next season... Bob Ford wonders if "when it's built, will they come?" referring to the Phillies new stadium. Not if they play the way they are now...

Jim Caple on the do's and don'ts during national anthems at sporting events... You know political correctness has become overdone when teams start outlawing Yankees sucks T-shirts. Random thought: why does that chant break out at the end of every Boston sporting event, including the Game 2 win over the 76ers, in the crowded stairways of the FleetCenter?

Sunday, April 28, 2002

PHILADELPHIA - Allen Iverson is not ready to clear out his locker just yet. Amid controversy that has surrounded his team for the last couple of days, Iverson stepped up in a big way, with a game-high 42 points, as the 76ers went on to win Game 3 of this best-of-five series, 108-103. The Celtics still lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 to be played in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

The Sixers fed off their home crowd, and jumped out to an early 22-10 lead, on the strength of Allen Iverson and Eric Snow, who combined for 17 of the team's 22 points early on. The first quarter ended with the Sixers leading 30-21. The 76ers kept pouring it on in the 2nd quarter, and led 53-37, causing Celtic coach Jim O'Brien to call a timeout. The Celtics answered with a 15-2 run of their own, a stretch in which Antoine Walker seemed to not be able to miss from 3-point land. The 76ers went into the locker room up 58-52, thanks to an Eric Snow 3-pointer (only his 5th all season) on their final possession of the half.

After trailing throughout the first half, the Celtics jumped on Philadelphia to begin the 2nd half. They took the lead when Paul Pierce hit a 3-pointer, putting them ahead 62-60. The two teams would exchange the lead 8 times down the stretch (including 9 ties). Tempers seemed to flare late in the 3rd quarter, as Pierce appeared to grab for McKie's leg, and then bumped Iverson, on one exchange, which lead to the three of them receiving technical fouls. McKie helped the Sixers regain the lead with just over 3 minutes left in the 3rd. They were ahead by a narrow margin going into the 4th quarter, 83-81.

The Celtics, as they have throughout this series, responded. When Kenny Anderson hit a jumper with just under 10 minutes to go, the Celtics led 87-86. It was a lead they would hold onto until a Derrick Coleman tip-in with just under a minute would put the Sixers up 104-103. Huge baskets were traded down the stretch, including an Iverson three pointer which tied the game at 96. When Rodney Rogers hit an uncontested 3-pointer with 1:32 to play, the Celtics took a 103-100 lead.

Things looked bleak for the 76ers, but it would be the last points the Celtics would score. On the next possession, Anderson picked up his 5th personal foul, Iverson sank two free throws, and the lead was shrunk to one. On the Celtics next possession, Rogers was called for a 3-second violation, giving the 76ers the ball back, and a chance to regain the lead. That's when Coleman (18 points, 9 rebounds) got a tip-in which gave the home team a lead they would not relinquish.

Trailing by only a point, Paul Pierce attempted a fall away, under pressure from Aaron McKie, but was off the mark. Snow slapped the rebound out of bounds, giving the Celtics another chance. Walker missed another 3, Iverson grabbed the biggest rebound of the game, was fouled, and hit the 2 subsequent free throws to put the Sixers up 106-103. With 19.7 seconds left to play, the Celtics called a timeout to set up a play. Walker passed up a shot, and deferred to Paul Pierce, who forced up a 3 pointer with around 6 seconds left in regulation, with Corie Blunt playing tough defense. The shot was off, and as Pierce pleaded his case to the officials, Coleman grabbed the rebound, was fouled, and sank the last two free throws.

After struggling in the first two games in Boston, by shooting less than 32%, the 76ers backcourt bounced back in a big way this afternoon. Iverson found his rhythm early, and shot 10-23, the first time he's shot over 40% this series. Eric Snow, who had success against the Celtics during the regular season, also had a huge game, scoring a career playoff high 23 points on 9-14 shooting. After shooting 32% in the Games 1 and 2, the backcourt tandem of the 76ers shot over 50%.

The Celtics continued to stroke the ball well from the outside. Antoine Walker set an NBA playoff record for 3-point field goals made in a quarter, as he went 6-6 from behind the arc in the 2nd quarter. Walker (27 points, 7 rebounds) went a remarkable 7-7 from behind the arc in the first half, setting a team playoff high in the process (the previous high, five three-pointers, had been held by both Larry Bird and Danny Ainge). Unfortunately for the Celtics, Walker went on to miss all 6 of his three-point attempts in the second half. The other half of the Celtics' duo, Paul Pierce, also did well, scoring 29 points (8-20 FG), including what would have tied a team playoff high 5-10 from the arc, had it not been for Walker besting that performance. Overall, the Celtics did well from behind the arc, shooting exactly 50%. Their 15 3-point field goals was also a record for the most 3 pointers made by a 76er opponent in a playoff game.

Allen Iverson no doubt enjoyed playing before the pumped up First Union Center crowd. The 76ers were also the beneficiaries of the officials' whistles, as they outscored the Celtics from the free throw line 36-16, and had 26 more free throw attempts than the visitors. Iverson benefited in particular, as he notched a career playoff high 19-20 from the line. The 76ers have now outshot the Celtics from the free throw line in this series, 77-52. The 76ers have also attempted 100 free throws, compared to the Celtics 61 attempts. The Celtics continue to outshoot the 76ers from the 3-point arc, taking 28 more attempts for the series, which partly explains the seeming disparity at the free throw line.

NOTES: Neither the Celtics nor the Sixers have ever swept each other in a playoff series... The 76ers are now 34-6 this season when holding a lead heading into the 4th quarter (17-3 at home)... The win snapped the 76ers losing streak in the playoffs, as they had lost 6 in a row coming into today's game, counting back to last year's NBA Finals... Best signs seen in the stands at the First Union Center: "The Truth Ain't the Answer", "0-2 But We're Not Through"