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76ers even series with 82-81 victory over Celtics

Charles Krupa | AP
Charles Krupa | AP
Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard Evan Turner (12) reaches over the top to block a shot by Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9) during the second half of Game 2 in their NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 14, 2012. The 76ers won 82-81.
The Associated Press

BOSTON — Not this time, Celtics.

After letting another fourth-quarter lead slip away in Boston, Philadelphia took it right back and held on to it, fighting off every run the Celtics made down the stretch for an 82-81 victory Monday night to even the Eastern Conference second-round series at one game apiece.

“We knew to expect the same type of game,” said Evan Turner, whose layup with 40.4 seconds to play put Philadelphia ahead to stay. “We did what we needed to do to win this game, just like we didn’t the first time around.”

Turner’s layup gave the Sixers a 76-75 lead and Philadelphia clinched it by going 6-for-6 from the free throw line over the final 12 seconds.

“We just found a way,” Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. “All season long we couldn’t win these games and now our guys are believing they can do it. And it is pretty special to watch.”

Turner finished with 10 points, Jrue Holiday scored 18 and Andre Iguodala added 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Sixers, who blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead as the Celtics won Game 1.

Philadelphia failed to hang on to the lead again, but this time the Sixers outplayed the Celtics down the stretch.

Game 3 is Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia won its first playoff game in Boston since 1982 despite committing a playoff-high 19 turnovers and getting outrebounded 47-36.

“We’re keeping our composure. We’re keeping our confidence and know it’s going to be grind-out games,” Iguodala said.

Every time the Celtics appeared to have regained the momentum, the Sixers came up with an answer. After trailing by eight points entering the fourth quarter, Boston’s Kevin Garnett tied it at 65-all on a turnaround jumper with 4:33 to play. The Celtics had the Sixers on the verge of a turnover when Paul Pierce blocked Lou Williams and the ball went out of bounds with just .9 seconds left on the shot clock.

No problem.

Lavoy Allen got the inbounds pass and banked in a shot from 22 feet and the Sixers were back in the lead.

“Well, the clock was down to point-nine seconds. I did what I could,” Allen said.

Garnett scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 12 rebounds. Ray Allen scored 17 points for Boston.

Brandon Bass had 12 points for the Celtics, who couldn’t quite repeat their comeback in the series-opening 92-91 victory.

“Listen, we put ourselves in that position,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “You put yourself in position to let someone else do something, then you can lose games and that’s what happened.”

Philadelphia led 57-49 entering the fourth, but Boston tied it twice before going up 72-71 on Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer, setting off a series of shots from beyond the arc.

Holiday answered with a 3 for the Sixers, then Ray Allen got the lead right back for the Celtics on a 3-pointer with 1:40 left. The Celtics had a chance to extend the lead after forcing the Sixers into a 24-second shot clock violation, but Rajon Rondo missed a shot and Iguodala got the rebound, leading to Turner’s layup to put the Sixers up 76-75 with 40.4 seconds to go.

“We gave them a couple shots that if we could get back we would love to have back,” Ray Allen said.

Rondo and Allen both missed shots that would have put Boston ahead, then Rondo fouled Turner with 14.4 seconds left. The Celtics fouled Turner again with 12 seconds and he hit both free throws to extend the lead to 78-76.

Fans grew restless as the second half opened with sloppy, choppy play by both teams. Boston led 38-36 at halftime and nearly 7 minutes into the third quarter the score was just 43-41 with the Celtics still ahead.

When the shots finally started falling, they were all for Philadelphia. The Sixers scored 14 straight points, turning a 47-43 deficit into a 57-47 lead in the final minute of the period. Boston went without a point for 4:40, finally scoring when Pierce made two free throws with 2.4 seconds left in the period.

The Celtics committed seven turnovers during the quarter and made just 4 of 17 shots.

“We knew it’d be a close game. We just needed to get stops down the stretch and we didn’t,” said Pierce, who finished with just seven points. “The third quarter really hurt us. We couldn’t score, and then Turner made some tough shots down the stretch.”

Spencer Hawes finished with eight points and 10 rebounds and Lavoy Allen scored 10 points for the Sixers.

NOTES: The Celtics scored the first nine points. … Boston made its first five shots, not missing until Hawes blocked Bradley’s attempt 3:24 into the game. … Rondo had eight assists in the first half, including alley-oop setups for Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins, who had to reach behind his head for the pass but still corralled it for the two-handed dunk to put the Celtics up 33-29. . .. Holiday led Philadelphia with 13 points in the first half. He was the only Sixer to score in double figures in the first two periods. Hawes was the next closest with six points. … The Sixers h ad lost their last seven playoff games in Boston, last winning on May 23, 1982, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

CLIPPERS’ GRIFFIN WANTS TO PLAY SERIES OPENER: Blake Griffin woke up Monday with his sprained left knee not feeling worse, but not really much better. Rest is the only remedy, a luxury the Los Angeles Clippers don’t have, and doctors guess he might miss two weeks if this were the regular season.

Griffin? He says he will play in Game 1 on Tuesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.

Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro is making no such guarantees.

“I don’t know yet,” Del Negro said Monday. “I’ll make that decision tomorrow after shootaround, after I talk to the trainer.”

Griffin doesn’t think that conversation will be necessary.

Griffin said there is “no doubt” about his availability for the start of the Western Conference semifinals, which start two days after the hobbled All-Star played fewer than two minutes in the fourth quarter of a Game 7 win at Memphis. His injury is the most worrisome for the banged-up Clippers: All-Star Chris Paul said Monday that his bothersome right hip is OK, and forward Caron Butler is expected to play despite his broken left hand.

Following a light shootaround and film session Monday, Griffin put his health between 75 percent and 80 percent.

“Hopefully more than that, but realistically, probably about that,” he said. “But my knee hasn’t gotten worse. That’s the encouraging thing. It just needs time, and we haven’t had much of it.”

They’ve barely had any at all.

The Clippers flew straight to Texas from Memphis on Sunday night, leaving them little time to savor one of the biggest wins in the woeful 41-year history of the franchise. Never had the Clippers won a Game 7 before Sunday, and this marks only the third time they’ve advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

Then there are the Spurs.

Few things about the No. 1 seed in the West could be more different than the Clippers, and not just in terms of franchise history. While the worn-out Clippers are facing their sixth game in 11 days, the Spurs haven’t played for eight days since sweeping Utah in the first round.

That the Spurs are not the most hobbled team in a playoff series is a refreshing change of pace for them. Winners of 14 in a row — one of the NBA’s six-longest winning streaks sustained in the playoffs since 1986 — the Spurs are not just well rested but also in unusually good health for this time of year.

They’re also in a good mood: After the Clippers won Sunday, Spurs guard Tony Parker sent Paul a text message.

“See you soon,” Parker wrote.

What took the Clippers so long, anyway?

“I was kind of expecting to play on Sunday,” Manu Ginobili said. “The uncertainty is not always good. I came here (Saturday) thinking I was going to know, and then I didn’t. It’s demotivating. Because you can’t prepare for nobody.”

The Spurs won two of three meetings with the Clippers this season, their only loss coming when Parker sat out with a sore thigh. That was March 9; the Spurs have lost only three more times since then, and once was when coach Gregg Popovich didn’t play Parker, Ginobili and Tim Duncan so his stars could rest.

By Monday afternoon, the Clippers were so starved for rest that Griffin was talking about the Game 7 afternoon start almost as though it were a blessing, because it gave them another precious half-day to recover.

“Going through a seven-game series is definitely exhausting,” Griffin said. “We may have some guys that are a little beat-up. That’s how it is. But a lot of teams have that, and we can’t use that as an excuse.”

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