It probably makes sense to expect the unexpected when it comes to the NBA Playoffs, but, more often than not, it's the established stars that make the most noise when the postseason rolls through each year. Monday night's game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics, however, showed that random players do occasionally step up.
The Sixers were led by Andre Iguodala on the defensive end -- as is typically the case -- but it was the unlikely duo of Evan Turner or Lavoy Allen who made the biggest contributions in the upset victory. Turner made the game-winning bucket off a nice steal and, as Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers noted after the game, it was quite possibly the most anyone could ask for out of a player some thought was going to be a bust as the second overall pick.
The first move past Rondo, the acrobatic body control to avoid Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and the last minute adjustment to put some major english on that ball to kiss off the glass at a heavenly angle. Mike Prada called it "a career-altering shot". Matt Moore of CBS channeled Christopher Nolan and said "The Sixers needed a hero. They got the Villain." And Doc Rivers, sneering, deemed it "a miraculous shot." Evan would go on to make two huge, COLD. BLOODED. free throws and seal the game for the Sixers. Though this certainly wasn't his best game, it was absolutely one of his best finishes.
The Sixers had an even more unlikely player step up earlier in the game, however, as Liberty Ballers' Derek Bodner notes that Lavoy Allen's offense was something not even the heartiest of 76ers fans could expect.
Luckily, Lavoy Allen stepped in and played 30 minutes of productive basketball. Let me reiterate that: Lavoy Allen played over 30 minutes of productive playoff basketball. I wasn't a fan of his drafting, and the concerns I had (none of which were talent) still exist to some degree, and won't be settled until he does this at a consistent level. But Lavoy has so far exceeded my expectations (even if he does nothing else in his Sixers career) that I can't help but give him props. Ten points, eight rebounds, and the best interior defense on the team down the stretch. He was the only one who consistently contested Garnett's shots, both on the perimeter and in the post.
I would be surprised if Doug Collins made a change in the starting lineup, but Allen deserves it. Individual game +/- is generally misused, but in this case it directly ties into how well he's played. Allen was a +6 in 20 minutes in game 1 and a +21 in 30 minutes tonight. That's a +27 when Allen has been on the court this series and a -27 when he's been off.
As far as the other side of the ball is concerned, our friends over at the aptly named CelticsBlog seem resigned to thinking that if they were just able to get some shots to fall that the game would have ended up going in the other direction.
That explanation would make sense in quite a few games, but Jeff Clark explained his team's woes too well not to excerpt them here.
The maddening thing is that we've seen this team run a fluid, highly efficient if not proficient offense in the past. When the ball is moving around, people are making the right cuts and knocking down shots, it is a thing of beauty. We've got three guys that are Hall of Fame locks and were their team's go-to scorers for years and years. But now they can't seem to buy a bucket with all the buckets of cash that they've earned ... scoring buckets.
This should be an interesting series to watch if the Sixers are able to continue to get solid play out of their lesser players, but if and when the Celtics start getting hot, even that might not keep Philly alive through another seven game series.