Philadelphia 76ers forward Andre Iguodala reacts after Game 4 of against the Boston Celtics on Friday in Philadelphia. Iguodala had 16 points and the 76ers won, 92-83, after being down by as many as 18 in the second half.
PHILADELPHIA — Andre Iguodala squared up for a 3-pointer from the wing like he had hundreds of times in his career.
This shot was different from all the others.
Iguodala continued a postseason where his final numbers don’t pop on the box score, but the buckets are as pivotal as they get. He snapped a tie game with five straight points in the final 90 seconds to help the Philadelphia 76ers storm back from 18 points down in the third quarter and stun the Boston Celtics 92-83 on Friday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The young Sixers were a team reborn in the second half and played like a squad that refused to roll over for the championship-tested Celtics.
“I don’t even know where to start,” Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. “Our guys are pretty amazing. They really are.”
Iguodala certainly has been.
One of the more maligned athletes in recent Philadelphia history, he’s changing his reputation one fourth-quarter point at a time.
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 Williams and buried a 3-pointer for a five-point lead.
“That’s not the first time he found me in that same exact spot,” Iguodala said. “Just not as big a platform as it was tonight. But it worked out for us.”
With the huge comeback, the Sixers tied the series at 2-2 and guaranteed a return home for one more game.
Game 5 is Monday in Boston.
They can thank Iguodala, Lou Williams, Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen for an unforgettable second half that left the Celtics purely dazed following an outcome that hardly seemed possible when Boston led 14-0 to start the game.
Iguodala and Turner scored 16 points. Williams scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half. Allen grabbed 10 rebounds.
Kevin Garnett had his first miserable outing — finishing with nine points — in an otherwise monster series. With Garnett in a funk, so were the Celtics.
Garnett, who turns 36 on Saturday, missed nine of 12 shots. He had little help from an offense that sputtered after the sizzling start. Paul Pierce scored 24 points and Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists.
“We had a team down and we didn’t finish them off,” Garnett said. “It’s pretty disappointing. So, we have to go back home. They did what they needed to do to protect their home court, now we have to go do the same thing.”
The Sixers just kept attacking, turning a first half of airballs, botched dunks and sloppy defense into a full-blown display of near-flawless basketball.
Thaddeus Young’s thunderous slam tied the game at 63 in the middle of the fourth. And when Jodie Meeks drained a 3-pointer on the Sixers’ next trip down the court for Philadelphia’s first lead a packed crowd of 20,411 fans stomped their feet and unleashed two hours of pent-up jubilation.
Williams hounded Pierce and forced a turnover, fed the ball to a streaking Turner for a dunk and put the lead at 68-65.
It was that kind of hustle that brought the Sixers back.
After Garnett blocked Allen’s shot, Young snagged the ball out of the air and scored to make it 74-all.
“In the second half, they came out and used the energy of their crowd, and we just didn’t respond,” Pierce said.
Game 4 came down to young legs, fresh enthusiasm and untested big-game experience vs. aging, championship-tested stars fighting for another title.
Give the edge to the Sixers.
Iguodala has become a fan favorite with a clutch postseason. He sank the winning free throws in Game 6 to finish off the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round.
And it was Iguodala who finished off the Celtics in Game 4.
The Celtics look primed for a blowout victory after the first 10 minutes of the game. They hold out hope a trip back to Boston can make them forget about this collapse.
“I thought we lost the composure, and once we did, we never really returned to playing basketball the way we played in the first half,” coach Doc Rivers said. “They pressure. They took us out of a lot of stuff.”
Philadelphia CEO Adam Aron tweeted at the break, “This will have to be one of the best come backs ever for the @Sixers.”
Down 15 at the half, the under-25 Sixers found their spark, their legs and their shooting touch to crank up the pressure on the Celtics.
Williams hit a 3, Iguodala hit a 3, and Williams converted a three-point play to make it 58-54. Williams stood on the free-throw line with the widest smile of anyone in the building and calmly sank the deficit-slicing free throw.
Meeks, a starter-turned-sub, stole an errant pass and scored his first bucket of the game to make it 63-59 at the end of the quarter.
The 76ers’ 10 baskets in the third were one more than their total for the entire half and their 28 points were three shy off their halftime total.
“We’re just going to keep fighting,” Collins said. “That’s what we do.”
The Sixers had vowed they would be a more determined team after the veteran Celtics dismantled and demoralized them on their home court in Game 3.
The Sixers said after the 16-point loss they would return more focused to prevent another hot Celtics’ start that took them out of the game and sucked the atmosphere out of the Wells Fargo Center.
The Celtics squashed that attitude moments after the opening tip before thousands of fans had taken their seats.
Pierce and Avery Bradley hit 3-pointers, Garnett hit a pull-up 20-footer and the Celtics raced to a 14-0 lead only 3½ minutes into the game.
The Sixers truly couldn’t find their footing. Young bounced the ball off his sneaker on a drive down the lane, and Pierce converted on the other end for an 18-3 lead.
The Celtics could never find that extra scoring boost to truly put away the Sixers. Rondo, Garnett and Allen all had quiet first 24 minutes and the Celtics let the lead drop to seven.
Rondo scored an uncontested bucket coming out of a timeout to end the half and put the Celtics up 46-31.
“That was probably the worst we could shoot,” Iguodala said. “They were playing as good as they could play and we were shooting poorly.”
Boy, did it ever work out in the end.
Notes: The 76ers are 4-1 at home in the postseason. … The Sixers are 3-3 this postseason trailing by double-digits after a 5-23 mark in the regular season. … The Sixers outscored Boston 34-26 in the paint.
LAKERS HOLD OFF THUNDER TO WIN GAME 3:
LOS ANGELES — After two straight exhausting playoff games that went down to the last gasp, Kobe Bryant knows the Los Angeles Lakers can't hope to keep up with the younger, faster Oklahoma City Thunder.
They're better off slowing down the game — or even better yet, standing still at the free throw line.
That's what the Lakers did to near perfection in Game 3 on Friday night, and that's why they're still standing in a series with an opponent who can run circles around them.
Bryant made 18 free throws without a miss, scored 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers rallied late for a 99-96 victory, cutting the Thunder's second-round series lead to 2-1.
Metta World Peace swiped the ball from Kevin Durant and hit two free throws with 12.9 seconds left for the third-seeded Lakers, who shook off the memory of their late collapse in Game 2 with a steady comeback from a late five-point deficit. Bryant's effort at the line set a franchise playoff record, and the Lakers needed every free throw.
"If it's an up-and-down game, we don't have a shot," said Bryant, who surpassed Gail Goodrich's 1972 team record of 17 free throws without a miss. "We've got to just slow down the game. Play our pace, play our tempo, and we'll give ourselves a great opportunity."
When Durant missed a potential tying 3-pointer before Andrew Bynum blocked Serge Ibaka's shot at the buzzer, the Lakers' frenzied crowd celebrated only their second victory in the last six playoff games.
Game 4 in the back-to-back set is Saturday night, which won't help the Lakers' weary legs in their 11th playoff game in 21 days.
Yet while the Thunder have shown more skill and athleticism than the Lakers can match, Los Angeles has largely controlled the tempo for two straight games.
Who knows what's possible in the shadow of the Lakers' 16 championship banners?
"We continued to work, even when they got the lead a couple of times in the fourth quarter," said Pau Gasol, who had 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. "It's in us. We want to win this series, we want to beat this team, and we will do whatever it takes. Obviously, we know how hard it is going to be, but we are ready for it."
Durant scored 31 points before missing his last shot for Oklahoma City, which seemed poised to move to the brink of its second straight trip to the Western Conference finals with a five-point lead inside the final 3 minutes. Instead, the Thunder lost for the first time in the postseason, getting outscored 12-4 down the stretch.
After blowing a seven-point lead in the final 2 minutes of Game 2, Los Angeles finished Game 3 on a 6-2 run in the final 33 seconds, all on free throws. The Lakers went 41 for 42 from the line, including 26 for 27 in the second half.
"You have to knock those freebies down," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "You're not going to get any better look in a game than a free throw. That's how good (the Thunder) are."
The Lakers said the 41-of-42 performance at the line was the second-best 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.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden scored 21 points apiece for the Thunder, who couldn't match the Lakers' late-game execution after soundly out-executing the Lakers in Game 2.
"We put them on the line," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "We can't do that. Down the stretch, you have to defend them without fouling and rebound the basketball. Unfortunately, we came up short."
Bynum had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who got 12 points apiece from Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake. The Lakers didn't appear worried while flirting with an 0-3 deficit, which has never been overcome in NBA history.
Oklahoma City's bench celebrated a 92-87 lead on Westbrook's breakaway dunk with 2:55 to play, but the Lakers trimmed away with Gasol's free throws, Bryant's layup and several possessions of tenacious defense. Bryant's free throws put the Lakers ahead with 1:09 to play.
Durant immediately hit a go-ahead jumper with a hand squarely in his face, but Bryant added two more free throws — his 15th and 16th — to put Los Angeles ahead 95-94. The Thunder finished 26 of 28 from the line, but the Lakers went 17 for 18 in the fourth quarter alone.
"We knew they were going to approach the game with a lot of intensity down 0-2," Durant said. "We did a great job of fighting back and taking a lead. ... We can play any type of basketball. That's what's good about our team. We can play fast. We can play slow. That's what tonight was, and so was Game 2. But both games, we did a good job of fighting. Tonight, we just didn't come out on top."
The game was the first of four second-round NBA playoff games in just over 48 hours at Staples Center, also the site of the NHL's Western Conference finals between and Kings and Phoenix on Thursday and Sunday. The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs will face the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday in an afternoon game before the Thunder and Lakers play Game 4.
Thanks to the NBA's shortened schedule, the Lakers are playing their first back-to-back playoff games since May 22-23, 1999, in the second round against San Antonio during another season shortened by labor strife.
Staples Center was bubbling with energy even before tipoff, with thousands of Lakers fans actually deigning to wear the gold giveaway T-shirts that are usually tucked under chairs or slung over shoulders.
Tempers flared in the second quarter when Westbrook furiously attempted to prevent World Peace from tying him up for a jump ball. World Peace's knee came down on Westbrook's leg during a brief skirmish including Jordan Hill, and both Westbrook and World Peace received technical fouls.
The Lakers made their first 28 foul shots before Bynum missed with 9:15 to play.
NOTES: Before the game, Gasol received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his charity work as a UNICEF ambassador. World Peace won the award last season. ... Kendrick Perkins had six points in 30 minutes, but Brooks put no limit on his minutes in the back-to-back games despite the veteran's sore hip. ... NBA Commissioner David Stern, Denzel Washington, Snoop Dogg, The Game, Ice Cube, Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and the Los Angeles Kings' Mike Richards, Drew Doughty and Jarret Stoll attended the game.