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Whatever Happens Happens: Sixers Lose Game 5, Who Knows Where Series Goes From Here

May 21, 2012, 11:20 PM EDT

The Philadelphia 76ers lost Game Five of their series to the Celtics because Boston are better and played like it.
Kevin.Garnett.Sixers.jpg

You wouldn’t know it from the final score, but the Sixers actually
played their best basketball of the series, maybe the post-season, in
the first half of the game. Their passing was great, the defense was
tight, and it seemed like all of their shots were good shots. It seemed
like they had even found some sort of hole in the Celtics’ defensive
rotation, as they were able to cycle the ball to an open player under
the Boston net on four or five separate possessions in the first
quarter. You knew it probably couldn’t last, though, and all we could
really hope for was that the Celtics would never get super-hot and kill
the Sixers’ momentum entirely.

That didn’t happen. The Sixers were up six midway through the third when
Paul Pierce clear-path fouled Andre Iguodala, sending him the line for
two shots, with the Sixers retaining possession. He missed both, the
Sixers turned the ball over, and then the team—as Doug Collins himself
put it—fell apart. The Sixers ended up scoring just 16 points in the
quarter, 35 in the half, as the Celtics went on a scoring tear (in this
series, 28 in a quarter is definitely a scoring tear), with Celtics
power forward Brandon Bass out-scoring the Sixers by his lonesome
(18-16) in the third. The C’s grew their lead to the high teens and the
Sixers were never able to recover. Final Score: Celtics 101, Sixers 85.

It was all Rondo. Yeah, it was also the big men hitting open jumpers,
but he was getting them all those easy looks off the Sixers needing to
help on him on defense, and he would just find Bass and Kevin Garnett
with perfect pinpoint passes. The Sixers couldn’t contain Rondo and they
certainly couldn’t get out to the shooters, and the Celtics’ bigs made
them pay. Paul Pierce also got to the line at will, converting nine of
nine from the stripe, and Rondo hit just enough layups to keep the
Sixers honest. Even without Avery Bradley (and Ray Allen struggling from
the floor), the Celtics were just too much for the Sixers, reminding
again that when all other things are equal in this series, Boston is
still a much better team.

To say that nobody stepped up for the Sixers in that second half would
be a fairly dramatic understatement. Jrue Holiday totally disappeared in
the second half (as he is wont to do) while Evan Turner got wildly
aggressive (as he is also wont to do), Elton Brand dried up after a
surprisingly wet first half, and Spencer Hawes…well, if there was a
way for a starting center to be more useless than Spencer Hawes has been
in this series, I’d be semi-genuinely curious to see what that would
look like. Gotta love that Lavoy Allen (12 points on 6-6 shooting) but
you can’t ask Lavoy to win you a game on his lonesome, and he certainly
wasn’t going to do it tonight.

What do we take from this game? Well, nothing that we didn’t know
already: The Celtics are better, and for the Sixers to win in this
series, weird shit has gotta happen. That weird shit has happened twice
in this series already, and there’s nothing to say that it can’t happen a
third or fourth time—especially if the refs are showing us some of the
love they did in Game Four, which the Celtics certainly got the lion’s
share of tonight—but it’s hard to predict or hope for. (One trend which
may or may not mean something: Every win in this series has come from
the team that was trailing the majority of the first half. So, if the
Sixers start Game Six on the wrong end of a 14-2 run, good sign!)

Game Six on Wednesday from the WFC. Who knows? We’ve gotten this far. Maybe we’ll get a little further. It could happen.