If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, for Philadelphia 76ers fans Game 6 Wednesday night was Kate Upton on the beach in Fiji.
For the rest of us — especially Boston Celtics fans — it looked a lot more Joan Rivers. But what matters to Sixers fans are the results and the 82-75 Philly win ties the series at 3-3 and forces a Game 7 in Boston on Saturday.
Philadelphia came in with a good defensive plan that Boston will need to counter Saturday — they trapped when the Celtics tried to make a move. Philly trapped Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo when they put the ball on the floor, they went after Kevin Garnett in the post. In Game 5 Rondo was carving up the Sixers defense, getting into the paint then hitting a cutting Brandon Bass or Kevin Garnett floating for the midrange. Come Wednesday night Rondo was 4-14 and forced to take jumpers that he missed. Boston was too often forced out of its offense into the improvised state Doc Rivers calls “random.”
As a team Boston shot 33.3 percent and had 16 turnovers (most in the second half). If it were not for Paul Pierce getting to the line and going 13-13 there this game would have been ugly. Well, even uglier.
Philly on the other hand had Jrue Holiday doing what Rondo did for Boston last game — attacking when he came off the pick and getting into the teeth of the Celtics defense (which was not its usual sharp self, especially Ray Allen who could not stay in front of anyone and fouled out). Holiday had 20 points and 6 dimes, and the Sixers had their usual balance. Elton Brand had 13 points and Andre Iguodala 12.
The 76ers had 42 points in the paint to the Celtics 16. Boston settled after the traps, Philly attacked. If that doesn’t change Saturday this is going to feel a lot like 1982 in Boston.
But let’s not pretend this game was well played or pretty. What worries me is that Game 7s is usually when teams get tight and play ugly basketball; I fear what we could see after this game. This was sloppy.
The second quarter… let us not speak of it. Philadelphia started 0-9 shooting and Boston only put up 17 points — and won the quarter by 6. It made you long for the beautiful basketball of the 1990s Knicks.
In the third the Sixers went on 11-0 run in the third to take the lead (Boston opened the quarter shooting 0-7), but Philly never really pulled away. Both team slogged toward the finish line. Philly won the third quarter 27-20 and led 60-56, something they were able to grow and maintain.
The key stretch may have been in the fourth when Holiday backed down Mickael Pietrus, then next time drove by Garnett and hit scoop layup. That got others going — Lou Williams had buckets, too. Without Avery Bradley (out with shoulder injuries) the Celtics didn’t have anyone who could slow them at all.
You expect that Boston will bounce back — they have the veterans, they are at home (and are historically 17-4 in Game 7s at home), they have the guys with the rings. But this series has seen momentum swing like a pendulum, anything can happen.
Which sounds beautiful to Philly fans.