My dad likes to turn off the TV when a game is not going the way he wants. He does this all the time with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Green Bay Packers, his teams, and when he is feeling a little extra bold he will keep the game on the screen but mute the sound.
Friday night was a lesson in how you don’t want to be like my dad.
If you are a Lakers fan, you might have said “I can’t watch anymore” when Russell Westbrook threw down a breakaway dunk with 2:55 left and the Thunder’s bench erupted in glee at their 92-87 lead.
But it wasn’t over.
If you are a Sixers fan, you probably wanted to kick the TV as a way to turn it off when the Celtics went ahead 14-0 at the beginning and were still up by 15 points in the third quarter and the crowd at Wells Fargo Center was pressing their collective mute button.
But that game wasn’t over, either.
On a night of two comebacks, the Lakers rallied down the stretch and made an incredible 41 of 42 free throws to defeat Oklahoma City 99-96 to avoid an 0-3 deficit that no NBA team has ever come back from. (Boxscore here).
And in Philadelphia, Andre Iguodala came through in the clutch just as he had done in the first-round closeout victory over Chicago, starring in a fourth-quarter rally as the Sixers put up 33 points on what had been a stingy Boston defense for a 92-83 victory that evened that Eastern Conference semifinal at 2-2. (Boxscore here).
“I don’t even know where to start,” Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. “Our guys are pretty amazing. They really are.”
We shall start with columnist Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer: “In the normal world of the NBA, the game was over, and by extension, the conference semifinal series against the Boston Celtics was all but over as well. The Sixers were losing by 18 points early in the second half of Game 4 on Friday night, and if there had been bright spots amid the gloom of their play, they were pretty well hidden. As we know by now, however, the Sixers do not operate in that normal world, a place where winning usually requires decent shooting and something other than ugly determination. So, they did it again, winning 92-83, and coming from an immense physical and emotional deficit to tie the series at two games each and ensure, if nothing else, that there will be at least one more game in the Wells Fargo Center this season. Nothing else is certain, because it is hard to predict the effect this game will have on the Celtics, who thought most of the evening that they had found the exit door leading to the conference championship. Maybe Boston will regroup on its home court Monday in Game 5, or maybe the Sixers will continue to defy the laws of basketball logic. If they can steal another game in Boston, where they won the second game of the series, then the next game in the Wells Fargo Center might not be the last game for the Sixers, but the last one this season for the Celtics.
Iguodala put the Sixers ahead 85-83 with a step-back jumper over a flailing Ray Allen with 1:22 left. Then he took the feed from a driving Lou Williams and buried a 3-pointer for a five-point lead. Iguodala, Williams, Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen were the key players in the comeback. Iguodala and Turner scored 16 points. Williams scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half. Allen grabbed 10 rebounds.
Philadelphia outscored the Celtics by 28 points and shot 46.3 percent (25-of-54) from the field with Williams on the court and were outscored by 19 and shot 21.4 percent (6-of-28) with Williams on the bench.
From Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: “There was going to come a night when Kevin Garnett’s time machine stalled, when Paul Pierce missed an open layup, when Rajon Rondo got blocked when a tie was within reach, and when Ray Allen hit only air with a 3-point attempt. This all happened in the last 2:34 of the Celtics 92-83 loss to Philadelphia last night in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. The series, suddenly tied at 2-2, will resume in Boston on Monday night. But misses happen. Defensive slippage, the core of the Celtics’ second-half trouble last night after limiting the 76ers to 21.3 percent first-half shooting, is what keeps this team awake at night. And last night’s second half, when Philadelphia shot 51.2 percent and attacked with the same relentless aggression of its Game 2 win, was like a checklist of what the Celtics despise. “We got away from our core principles,” said Keyon Dooling, referring, naturally, to the C’s inability to defend or protect the defensive glass against a normally average rebounding team. Instead, the Sixers outrebounded the Celtics by a 52-38 margin, including an unforgivable 28-17 margin over the last 24 minutes, a 12-5 overall edge in second-chance points and 27-13 in fast break points. Once the Celtics started missing — and they missed nine straight shots with three turnovers sprinkled in during the 15-2 Philly run that turned this game around — the 76ers revived their fast break. That run erased an 18-point (49-31) Celtics lead, and gave the Sixers renewed hope. Rondo, Garnett, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley all fell into foul trouble, and the Celtics responded by falling back on their heels.”
Friday night’s late game resembled a free throw clinic, but there as actual live action sprinkled in throughout – including a missed 3-pointer from 28 feet by Kevin Durant that would have tied the game with 2 seconds left.
The Lakers went 41-for-42 from the line, the second-best accuracy mark in NBA playoff history for teams with more than 30 attempts. Only Dallas’ 49-for-50 effort against San Antonio on May 19, 2003, was better.
After blowing a seven-point lead in the final two minutes of Game 2, Los Angeles finished Game 3 on a 6-2 run in the final 33 seconds, all on free throws. Kobe Bryant finished 18-for-18.
From J.A. Adande of ESPN.com: There were nights this season that Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown called these kinds of games — the kind where neither team shoots above 40 percent — enjoyable to watch. He didn’t use that term Friday night. The playoffs don’t offer time for joy, not when you’re still down two games to one. What the Lakers got from their 99-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 was relief … and renewed life in this series. The digging of their graves can wait for another day — literally one more day, in this case. On Saturday the Lakers play the second end of their first playoff games on back-to-back days since 1999. They got the reprieve through means that only Brown seems to find aesthetically pleasing. They did it first with defense, then with rebounds. An Andrew Bynum blocked shot here, a Metta World Peace deflection there. They are getting so gritty that even Kobe Bryant is digging in in an attempt to draw charges, even though it goes against some of his basic basketball principles. ”You’ve got to do what it takes to win at this point,” Bryant said. The Lakers also got the victory via the side benefit of superstar status: trips to the free throw line.”
Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, who called Bryant’s Game 2 meltdown the worst performance he had ever witnessed in 16 years of covering Kobe, has his man-crush back: “OK, so I recognize that guy. Of course, absolutely, that’s him. Still clutch, still fearless, still talented enough to throw his aging body in front of a defeat and almost single-handedly stop it, spin it on its axis, and turn it into a victory. Yeah, Kobe Bryant is still the one. Two days after giving away a second-round playoff game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Bryant grabbed one back for the Lakers on Friday night, controlling the momentum and creating the magic that gave the Lakers a 99-96 home victory in Game 3. With memories of Bryant’s fourth-quarter collapse Wednesday still fresh, Bryant scored 14 points in this fourth quarter to give the Lakers new life, if only for 24 hours. They now trail the series, 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for Saturday night. The rare postseason back-to-back could leave the Lakers flat on their backs, as they are already the older and slower team here. Then again, they were supposed to be gasping on Friday, and their veteran gave them their fight. After losing the ball to Russell Westbrook and watching the Thunder take a five-point lead on his fast-break dunk with three minutes remaining, Bryant found his inner Kobe. His driving layup past James Harden pulled the Lakers within a point with 1:32 remaining. His two free throws on the ensuing possession gave the Lakers a lead, then two more free throws on the next possession gave them the lead for good. Meanwhile, he was shutting down Harden defensively as the Thunder failed to recapture the sizzle that pushed them to the Game 2 comeback win.