NBA Playoffs: Philadelphia Makes It A Series

The Philadelphia 76ers officially sent word to the NBA that the battle is joined in their second-round series against the Boston Celtics, as the Sixers pulled out an 82-81 win in the Garden last night to even the series at a game apiece as action reverts to Philadelphia on Friday night.

While Jrue Holiday played an excellent game at point guard—he scored 18, drained 4/6 from three-point range and was part of a defensive effort that helped keep Rajon Rondo under control—the biggest reason Philadelphia won this game was that they owned the glass and got to the foul line. Spencer Hawes led the rebounding effort with ten boards and the Sixer bench was a big part of the win. The quartet of Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Jodie Meeks and Lavoy Allen combined for 26 points, and more impressively, for 19 rebounds. Contrast this with the Boston bench, which got only six rebounds (The C’s reserves had 31 points, but that’s because Ray Allen is technically a bench player and scored 17. If you base it on minutes played and move Allen up, with Avery Bradley down, the Celtics’ subs only had 22 points).  And the Philadelphia bench was 10/10 from the line. Boston was able to get its three-point shooting game back in gear, with the good night from Allen and Mickael Pietrus nailing a couple big treys in a fourth quarter rally that looked like it would deliver another Boston win. But when the outside shooting denies you getting to the foul line consistently, it loses a lot of value. Paul Pierce was a non-factor for the second straight game, scoring only seven points.

Oklahoma City 109 LA Lakers 90: If the Lakers were going to win a game in Oklahoma City it wasn’t going to be last night. Not with the team coming off the emotional Game 7 win on Saturday night over Denver and the Thunder well-rested. The energy disparity showed up on the defensive end, where Los Angeles let OkC hit 53 percent from the floor and had no luck forcing the ball off of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, with the duo combining for 52 points. But I think the Thunder have to be concerned about the lack of inside presence from Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins—not so much in scoring, but rebounding. Even with Pau Gasol playing as though he’d have been better off staying in the hotel, the Thunder were still narrowly outrebounded last night. Andrew Bynum, the youngest of the Laker core, was the one who made the biggest impact, with 20 points/14 rebounds. Kobe had 20, but little else, which for him is a quiet night. Oklahoma City doesn’t need scoring balance—with James Harden kicking in off the bench they have the three scorers necessary to win a big series like this—but they need the entire lineup involved in defense and rebounding, and if both Gasol and Bynum click in rhythm in Game  2 on Wednesday, this could still be a series.

Two more games go tonight. Indiana takes another crack at Miami after being beaten by the Heat in the fourth quarter of Game 1 on Sunday. Chris Bosh is out indefinitely for Miami and the reports that indefinitely means at least this series. This is no small loss—not only because of Bosh’s talent, as one just a step behind LeBron and Dwayne Wade, but because Indiana is exactly the kind of team that can exploit a Miami interior that was already a problem. Roy Hibbert and David West played well on Sunday and they have to smell blood in the water tonight. Danny Granger needs to play like a leading scorer. If Indiana does these things, they’ll steal a road win and that’s what I’m expecting to happen.

The Los Angeles Clippers visit San Antonio to start their second round series. TheSportsNotebook’s series preview will post late Tuesday morning.