By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
Now that the Philadelphia 76ers are preparing for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with the Boston Celtics, head coach Doug Collins doesn’t want to hear anything about playing with “house” money or anything about a moral victory for getting this far in the playoffs.
Collins, who played in these kinds of games in his own playing career, wants more than just take home the consolation prize for merely showing up. After watching his team force a Game 7 with a tenacious performance on both ends of the floor in their 82-75 win over Boston, he believes his team is ready to take the next step.
“I want more,” he said, “I’m willing to get greedy and we want more, We’ve fought, we’ve worked and we’ve gone through a lot as a team. We’ve grown. …Our mindset is I don’t want to go into that game with no matter what happens, everything’s okay. I want to go into the game with the idea of let’s see what we can do, let’s see if we can get us a win.”
Andre Iguodala certainly shares Collins’s view of playing Boston in Game 7. He scored 13 points including a thunderous slam dunk that seemed to energize the Sixers players and the crowd in the third quarter. Iguodala also hit a pair of clutch free-throws late in the game that kept the Sixers in the lead.
“If we were just happy to be here, then we could have just given up (Wednesday night) and saved ourselves a trip to Boston,” Iguodala said. “That’s one thing about our team, we believe in ourselves. Each game from here on out is only going to enhance our careers, knowing what it takes to get to each different level. We’re taking it one game at a time and we’re playing confident.”
The Sixers will play the Celtics in Boston Saturday night in the decisive Game 7 to see which teams will go to the Eastern Conference Finals to play the winner of the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.
If the Sixers can keep taking the ball to the basket the way they did against the Celtics in Game 6, they will certainly have more than a puncher’s chance of advancing to the next round. Point guard Jrue Holiday played arguably his best game of the series.
He scored 20 points including a huge basket that put the 76ers up by 11 with 3:15 left and hitting two free-throws late in the game to put the final nail in the Celtics coffin for game 6. He also dished out six assists.
“I was very proud of Jrue Holiday (Wednesday),” said Collins, who showed his team clips of the Sixers Game 7 road win over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals back in 1982 the day before Game 6. “He stayed in attack mode. He knows what he needs to score for us. He did a great job of that.”
Another player the player the Sixers will be counting on Game 7 will be power forward Elton Brand, who played 34 minutes in Game 6 and scored 13 points while pulling down 10 rebounds. He did yeoman’s work helping to defend Boston’s Kevin Garnett. Brand also did some scoring inside the paint as well.
“Everything’s a learning process and we’re seeing how imperative it is to have home court advantage,” Brand said. “Now we’re going on the road. It’s going to be tough. We know we have to battle, but we’re going to have to find a way.”
One of those ways is trying to stop Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. The Sixers kept Rondo from penetrating in the low post and held him to nine points and six assists in Game 6.
“Our communication was a lot better,”Iguodala said. “They’ve been sending their pick and rolls deeper. Our bigs ended up doing a better job of communicating what they want to do defensively.”
After six tough games with the up and coming Sixers, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said the most difficult thing about playing the 76ers is having to deal with the youth and their speed.
“Well, they’re athletic,” Rivers said. “They play with a lot of energy and it’s very difficult for our guy. We knew this matchup coming in would be hard because they have a quickness advantage and we understand that.”
The Sixers are hoping to use any advantage get for Game 7.
Notes—Former Sixers guard Allen Iverson carried the ceremonial game ball for Game 6 into the Wells Fargo Center. He was given a thunderous standing ovation by the sellout crowd of 20, 402 fans who showered him with chants of “MVP.”