Despite Early Run, C's Lose Composure

PHILADELPHIA - The NBA has always been a game of runs. When the Celtics opened Game 4 with a lightning-fast 14-0 run, it sapped all the energy out of the Wells Fargo Center and demoralized a Sixers team that was still licking its wounds from a 16-point loss in Game 3.

The lead extended to 15 points by the half, and the rout was on.

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers said his team lost its composure in the second half, as a 15-point halftime lead evaporated.

Um, not so fast.

A few stats from the final box score tell most of the story on this one. So where do you want to start? Was it the free throw attempts disparity, favoring the Sixers 36-19? How about 17 offensive rebounds for Philadelphia? Or maybe 17 turnovers for the Celtics? Are you into fast-break points? The 76ers posted 27 of them.

Those numbers alone make you wonder how the Celtics didn’t get completely blown out of the building. If it weren’t for the initial 14-0 run, that might have been the case.

Of course, the only stat that truly matters is the final score, and in Friday's case, the Sixers won 92-83, evening the Eastern Conference Semifinals series at 2-2 and guaranteeing the Celtics one more trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

“I thought coming out of halftime, really I thought they just came out and became more physical, and I thought we got into that instead of playing basketball, quite honestly,” Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought we lost the composure and once we did, we really never returned to playing basketball the way we played in the first half.”

Rather than throwing the haymaker, the Celtics were rattled and outscored 28-17 in third quarter, as they missed their first nine field goals of the period. They finished the quarter just 5-for-18, committed eight fouls in 12 minutes and gave up 11 points on the break as momentum shifted to the home team.

“I think they sped us up a little bit taking a lot of quick shots,” Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said. “I guess we made some turnovers in that stretch and they made shots.”

When the Celtics offense sputters, it’s usually blamed on lack of execution and settling for “random” rather then “running their stuff,” and Rondo echoed his coach’s sentiment. Foul trouble didn’t help, nor did a rough night for Kevin Garnett (9 points on 3-for-12 shooting to go with 11 rebounds), but the Celtics' discombobulated attack was chiefly to blame for the second-half collapse.

“I’ve got to do a better job of slowing us down and getting us in our sets, demanding guys get in the right spots and execute offensively,” Rondo said, going more in-depth than usual in his postgame press conference. “I’ve got to keep a calculation of when we’re doing a good job at random and when we’re not.”

The Wells Fargo Center actually kept a running calculation of the score all night long on the Jumbotron, and the Celtics entered the fourth quarter with a four-point lead at 63-59.

The Sixers completed the comeback when Thaddeus Young’s finger roll tied the game at 63-63, and seven lead changes later, the Sixers pulled away on two clutch shots from Andre Iguodala, a step-back jumper followed by a 3-pointer that put Philly ahead 88-83 with 36.9 seconds to go. When Ray Allen’s 3-point attempt missed wildly, the game was in hand, the comeback was complete, and the momentum had officially shifted.

The good news is the Celtics will host Game 5 and a potential Game 7 in Boston. It’s not how they drew it up, but since when has this team done things the easy way?