PHILADELPHIA — Before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins stressed points in the paint as one of the biggest keys.
Then his team proceeded to outscore the Boston Celtics 42-16 in the paint, forcing Game 7 with a 82-75 victory.
This was an ugly game through and through. But the Sixers finally broke through offensively in the third quarter, largely because their guards were repeatedly able to get into the paint. And you had to wonder if things would have been different if the Celtics had Avery Bradley.
The second-year guard, who had made life tough for the Philly guards in the first four games, missed his second straight game with a pair of shoulder injuries. The Sixers’ Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Lou Williams took advantage.
Philly liked the Turner/Ray Allen matchup, and a couple of Turner post-ups produced buckets on the 9-0 run that seemed to turn the game around for the team offensively.
For most of the second half, the Sixers attacked Allen in isolations, and weren’t afraid to go at Rajon Rondo either. In particular it was Holiday (20 points and six assists) and Williams (11 points and six assists) who most took advantage of Bradley’s absence.
“They went to a lot of isos and they were picking who they wanted,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said afterward. “We have to do a better job of covering for guys.”
The Boston Herald reported Wednesday night that it’s “doubtful” Bradley plays again this postseason. So yeah, the Celtics bigs will have to do a better job of covering for the guards that are still healthy … and Allen, who isn’t.
Of course, the more important number was the 16 points in the paint on the other end. The Sixers were able to keep Rondo in front of them, holding him to just nine points and six assists.
“I thought they really clogged the paint up pretty well on him,” Rivers said.
The Sixers also got back in transition to keep Kevin Garnett from getting deep post position. And they challenged every Boston shot at the rim.
Now, they just have to do all that again in Game 7.