BOSTON — The Philadelphia 76ers set an NBA record this season, turning the ball over just 11.2 times per game. The Sixers weren’t a good shooting team or a good offensive rebounding team. And they ranked last in the league in free throw rate. But they got by offensively because they took care of the ball better than any team in league history (or since turnovers were first recorded in the 1977-78 season).
In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Sixers shot the ball pretty well (47 percent) from the field. They also gave themselves plenty of second-chance opportunities with 14 offensive rebounds.
But uncharacteristically, it was turnovers that killed the Sixers in Monday’s 101-85 loss to the Celtics. Philly was holding on to a four-point lead with eight minutes to go in the third quarter when they proceeded to turn the ball over five times on their next six possessions, sparking a 10-0 Boston run that changed the game.
Four of the five turnovers were of the live-ball variety, allowing the Celtics to get out in transition and Brandon Bass to turn into a beast underneath the basket.
In total, the Sixers turned the ball over 15 times on Monday, their second-highest total of the postseason. And 10 of the 15 were live balls. And you can point that one stretch in the middle of the third period for the reason they’re heading home for Game 6 on the brink of elimination.
The Celtics did turn up the defensive intensity in the second half. And the officials were certainly allowing them to be physical. But the Sixers can’t win if they can’t take care of the ball.
They made things worse for themselves by shooting just 10-for-16 from the free throw line. Further, Doug Collins inexplicably played Lavoy Allen less than 19 minutes, after Allen had been such a key player in the first four games.