When I sat down to watch Game 6 of the Boston-Philadelphia series in the NBA’s Eastern Conference semi-finals, if you’d have told me that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would each have 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds, I’d have figured the Celts were in good shape, and could fit enough offense around them. If you told me that Boston would win the rebounding battle 48-37, I’d have figured the series was all but over. Both of those things happened, but the 76ers clamped down on the defensive end, the Celtics shot a miserable 33 percent from the floor and Philly got a survival win, 83-75 and set up a decisive seventh game on Saturday.
It was Brandon Bass, the hero of Game 5, along with Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo who were the culprits last night, with the trio combining to shoot just 10-of-37. Philadephia hardly put on a clinic, but they did shoot 46 percent and Jrue Holiday decisively outplayed Rondo, as the Sixer point guard distributed the ball, with six assists and knocked down his shots, hitting 7-of-15 and finishing with 20 points. Philly got additional help from Elton Brand, with 13 points/10 rebounds and Evan Turner had a 12/9 night including a nice finishing move on a drive against Garnett at a key point the second half.
Miami now gets a chance to succeed where Boston failed, and the Heat visit Indiana for a clinch opportunity in Game 6. Miami will play this game without suspended center Udonis Haslem, who was part of the cheap-shot brigade the Heat unveiled in Game 5. They’re also without Dexter Pittman, the backup who clotheslined Lance Stephenson and then winked at his teammates over it. Pittman’s out three games, but he’s an inconsequential player in any case. But if the loss of Haslem, in addition to that of Chris Bosh, can’t motivate Indiana to look inside to Roy Hibbert and David West, I really don’t know what will. If team president Larry Bird calling out his team for being soft doesn’t get them juiced up, I don’t know what will. The Pacers have shown they can play hard in this series and they’ve shown they can play smart. But they’ve never done both at once.
I concur with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon who’s noted frequently on his show Pardon The Interruption with Tony Kornheiser (5:30 PM ET on weekdays, and the funniest thirty minutes in sports television) that Indiana gets themselves in position, talks trash and then goes and “jacks up all kinds of threes.” Then in Game 5 they just went soft. If they channel their energy into feeding Hibbert and West, they’re going to win this game tonight and win it decisively. If they don’t, they’ll lose just as badly. At this point, I don’t have any confidence in the Pacers’ intangibles, so I’m predicting the latter.