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76ers top Celtics to force Game 7 in East semis

Associated Press Modified: May 24, 2012 at 5:08 am •  Published: May 24, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — In the most unpredictable of playoff series, Rajon Rondo was the one consistent playmaker for Boston.

Until Game 6.

Rondo had his quietest game of the second round and the Celtics paid with an ineffective shooting night that left them playing catch-up against rugged and determined Philadelphia. The Celtics could never take that clutch late lead and now find themselves trying to avoid a monumental upset.

Jrue Holiday scored 20 points, and Elton Brand had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to an 82-75 victory over the Celtics on Wednesday night that tied the Eastern Conference semifinals.Neither team has played well enough to seize control of the series by winning consecutive games. But the Sixers were good enough to win Game 6, improving to 5-0 this postseason in games following a loss. Game 7 is Saturday in Boston.

"It's nice to have it at home, but we've got to get it still," coach Doc Rivers said.

Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rondo could be playing their last game together Saturday night if they can't find a way to hang onto the ball and put away a Sixers team that won't quit.

Boston has learned three times already how difficult that can be.

The fun for the Sixers started when former 76ers All-Star Allen Iverson earned a roaring standing ovation when he presented the game ball.

It ended with the song, "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," blasting through the arena.

"I want more," 76ers coach Doug Collins said. "We're going to get greedy. We want more."

The Celtics posted ugly numbers across the board: Blame the loss on the 33 percent shooting, the 17 turnovers or the 3 for 14 3-point shooting. Either way, there's enough to go around. Pierce had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Garnett had 20 points and 11 boards.

Rondo had tortured the Sixers over the first five games, but was limited to nine points (4 for 14 shooting) and six assists.

He'll need to return to form at home for the Celtics to have a chance at avoiding the upset.

"I thought he was trying to orchestrate the offense and trying to go," Rivers said. "He probably got caught in the middle. It happens, but he'll be better."

The Sixers again failed to put up the sparkling numbers in the box score usually required for a deep postseason run. They missed 8 of 9 3-pointers, shot a woeful 17 of 28 from the free throw line and had 12 turnovers.

But when the Sixers really needed that game-changing basket, there was Evan Turner twisting and fighting through defenders down the lane. When the Sixers needed a stop, there was Brand, ripping a rebound away from Boston, even with painful neck and shoulder injuries that keep him awake at night.

"When you get out there, you don't feel much," Brand said. "You've got the adrenaline flowing. You're banging and fighting. That's why Coach has confidence in me to play 34 minutes."

The Sixers wrote "Huddle Up and Fight" on their locker room chalkboard. They did just that and are now one win from reaching the conference finals for the first time since 2001.

Iverson was the MVP of that run.

Maybe a little of that ol' A.I. magic rubbed off in Game 6.

Unlike Game 5, when the Sixers collapsed in the third quarter and blew a lead, they suddenly found a groove in front of 20,403 fans.

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