Philadelphia, PA – The underdog Philadelphia 76ers have some fight left in them, forcing a deciding Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals with an 82-75 victory over the cold-shooting Boston Celtics.
The eighth-seeded Sixers missed 11 free throws, hit just 1-of-9 from three- point range and were outrebounded 48-37, but nevertheless pulled out a gutty Game 6 win 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 its defense that has the series headed back to Boston for a winner-take-all battle on Saturday.
"They had a lot of energy tonight...and I just think they outplayed us," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said of the Sixers. "We had a lot of empty possessions offensively."
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett provided 24 and 20 points, respectively, for the Celtics, who 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, in the starting lineup due to the injury to Avery Bradley, had a chance to cut the deficit to three, but missed a wide open three-pointer from the right wing.
Andre Iguodala grabbed the rebound and made two free throws at the other end with 38.7 seconds left. Iguodala had missed four of his first five free throws up to that point.
Pierce's three-pointer less than six seconds later kept Boston alive, but two more free throws by Holiday essentially secured the hard-fought decision.
"We competed every possession. It was a battle," Sixers head coach Doug Collins said. "Our guys did a really good job tonight."
Both offenses struggled in the first half, made evident by the Celtics leading 36-33 at the break despite making just 32 percent of their shots.
The Sixers missed nine straight attempts during their 11-point second quarter, but took advantage of the Celtics failing to hit a field goal over the first 5 1/2 minutes of the third.
An 11-0 run, punctuated by Iguodala's slam over Pierce, gave the hosts a 46-41 advantage they never relinquished. Boston tied it on two occasions after the highlight-reel dunk, but was never able to pull ahead.
Former Sixers great Allen Iverson presented the game ball to referee Joe Crawford prior to tip-off...The last time the Sixers and Celtics played a Game 7 in the playoffs was 1982, with Philadelphia winning on Boston's home court...Allen and Rajon Rondo each scored nine points for the Celtics, who got 11 rebounds from Garnett and 10 boards from Pierce...Sixers forward Elton Brand recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards...Iguodala and Evan Turner each scored 12, while Lou Williams added 11 to round out Philadelphia's double-digit scorers...Philadelphia scored 26 more points in the paint (42-16).