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Sixers and Celtics set to finish latest chapter in rivalry
(Sports Network) - Might as well show up.
That could be the Philadelphia 76ers' motto as they prepare to face off with long-time rival Boston in the deciding Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at TD Garden on Saturday.
The eighth-seeded Sixers are still breathing after an 82-75 victory over the cold-shooting Celtics in Game 6 on Wednesday.
The underdog 76ers missed 11 free throws, hit just 1-of-9 from three-point range and were outrebounded 48-37 in that one, but pulled it out by holding Boston to 33 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers.
Philadelphia had five players reach double figures -- led by Jrue Holiday's 20 points -- but it was the defense and a dominance in the paint that has the series headed back to Beantown for a winner-take-all battle.
Elton Brand recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards for the Sixers, who outscored the C's in the paint 42-16. Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner each scored 12 points, while Lou Williams added 11 to round out Philadelphia's double-digit scorers.
"They had a lot of energy tonight...and I just think they outplayed us," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said of the Sixers after Game 6. "We had a lot of empty possessions offensively."
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett provided 24 and 20 points, respectively, for Boston, which stayed close by making 20-of-23 from the foul line.
Brandon Bass regressed with an eight-point effort on 2-of-12 shooting just two days after his 27 points sparked Boston to a 101-85 rout and a series lead.
The Sixers, who have not lost consecutive games this postseason, turned things around in the third quarter Wednesday and held a 60-56 lead heading into the fourth.
Consecutive baskets by Holiday early in the frame sparked a seven-point run that extended the margin to 70-59, and the closest Boston got from there was six, 78-72 in the final minutes.
Ray Allen, starting in place of the injured Avery Bradley, and Rajon Rondo each scored nine points for the Celtics.
"We competed every possession. It was a battle," Sixers head coach Doug Collins said. "Our guys did a really good job. All we wanted was to win tonight and give ourselves a chance to go into Boston and see what happens Saturday in Game 7."
Few expected Philadelphia to win on Wednesday and even fewer will expect it to happen again over the weekend, but Collins feels his team isn't done and Boston has come up woefully short in two recent Game 7s at home, losing by 27 vs. Indiana in 2005 and by 19 against Orlando in '09, although Garnett was injured in that one.
Asked if he was already satisfied by what his young team has accomplished, the Sixers' mentor quickly bristled at the thought.
"I'm not giving them that out," he said. "Now I want more. We're going to get greedy. We've fought. We've worked and we've grown as a team."
History certainly isn't on the Sixers side, however. The franchise has forced a Game 7 after trailing in a series 3-2 on eight different occasions and won just once, back in the 1955 NBA Finals when the then-Syracuse Nationals topped the Fort Wayne Pistons.
Meanwhile, there have been 108 Game 7s in NBA history, and the home team has won 87 (80 percent) of them. The Celtics have been in 27 of them and won 20.
"I don't want to go in with that 'no matter what happens, everything's OK' mindset," Collins said. "I want to go in with the idea, 'Let's see what we can do. Let's see if we can go get us a win.'"
On the injury front, Bradley, a defensive stalwart, will miss the remainder of the playoffs following shoulder surgery. The diminutive guard, who has been the key to handling Holiday in this series, was scheduled to undergo the procedure on Friday and could miss up to four months of basketball related activity.
"Avery Bradley is having surgery today so he's out for the playoffs," Rivers said Friday. "That's that. When a player goes down, that's disappointing, and especially with what Avery has given us this year. He's become a very valuable piece to our basketball team. His ability to guard the best [opposing] guard at [point or shooting guard] has really taken so much pressure off Rondo, in particular."
"Rondo doesn't have a lot of breaks. But that's the way it is," Rivers continued. "We've been a team all year when stuff happens, you deal with it and you just move forward. That's who we've been and that's who we're going to have to be [Saturday]."
Philadelphia hasn't been to a Game 7 since 2001 and the Celtics are 3-2 in the game's ultimate contest since the "Big Three" of Garnett, Pierce and Allen got together in 2007.
This will be the seventh Game 7 between the Celtics and Sixers, including one in 1959, when the Sixers were the Nats. Boston has won four of the previous six, but the last Game 7 between these two teams was just over 30 years ago when Andrew Toney and the 76ers vanquished the Larry Bird-era Celtics during Game 7 of the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals in the old Boston Garden.
The high-scoring Toney, known as "The Boston Strangler," set the tone in that game by netting 14 points in the first quarter and hitting the gas again later when the Celtics trimmed the Sixers' lead to just two in the second half. By the final buzzer, Toney had amassed 34 points in a 120-106 Philadelphia rout.
Overall, this rivalry began all the way back in 1949-50 when the Sixers franchise called Syracuse home. Since the team relocated to the City of Brotherly Love, the 76ers and Celtics have met in the postseason 11 different times and eight of those were Eastern Conference finals. Boston has taken seven of the 11 series.
The winner of the contest will face the Miami Heat in the East finals starting on Memorial Day.
05/26 10:46:28 ET
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