76ers stun Celtics 92-83 in Game 4 to even series

Posted May 18, 2012, at 11:52 p.m.
Last modified May 19, 2012, at 12:09 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA — Andre Iguodala snapped a tie game with five straight points in the final 90 seconds to help the Philadelphia 76ers storm back from 15 points down in the first half and stun the Boston Celtics 92-83 on Friday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The young Sixers were a team reborn in the second half and played like a squad that refused to roll over for the championship-tested Celtics.

“I don’t even know where to start,” Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. “Our guys are pretty amazing. They really are.”

The Sixers tied the series at 2-2 with the huge comeback and guaranteed a return home for one more game.

Iguodala, one of the more maligned athletes in recent Philadelphia history, put the Sixers ahead 85-83 with a step-back jumper and buried a 3-pointer for a five-point lead.

Game 5 is Monday in Boston.

Iguodala scored 16 points, Evan Turner had 16 and Lou Williams added 15.

Kevin Garnett had his first bad outing in an otherwise monster series with nine points. With Garnett in a funk, so were the Celtics.

The Sixers just kept attacking, turning a first half of airballs, botched dunks and sloppy defense into a full-blown display of near-flawless basketball.

Thaddeus Young’s thunderous slam tied the game at 63 in the middle of the fourth. And when Jodie Meeks drained a 3-pointer on the Sixers’ next trip down the court for Philadelphia’s first lead 20,000 fans stomped their feet and unleashed two hours of pent-up jubilation.

Williams hounded Paul Pierce and forced a turnover, fed the ball to a streaking Turner for a dunk and put the lead at 68-65.

It was that kind of hustle that brought the Sixers back.

After Garnett blocked a Lavoy Allen shot, Young snagged the ball out of the air and score to make it 74-all.

Game 4 came down to young legs, fresh enthusiasm and untested big-game experience vs. aging, championship-tested stars fighting for another title.

Give the edge to the Sixers.

Iguodala, who has been branded as the face of a mediocre franchise over his eight seasons, has changed that talk with a clutch postseason. He sank the winning free throws in Game 6 to finish off the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round.

And it was Iguodala who finished off the Celtics in Game 4.

Pierce had 24 points and Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists. Garnett, who turns 36 on Saturday, missed nine of 12 shots. The Celtics look primed for a blowout victory after the first 10 minutes of the game. They hold out hope a trip back to Boston can make them forget about this collapse.

“Coming out of halftime they came out more physical, and we got into that instead of playing basketball. We lost our composure,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

Down 15 at the half, the under-25 crew found their spark, their legs and their shooting touch to crank up the pressure on the Celtics.

Williams hit a 3, Iguodala hit a 3, and Williams converted a three-point play to make it 58-54. Williams stood on the free-throw line with the widest smile of anyone in the building and calmly sank the deficit-slicing free throw.

Meeks, a starter-turned-sub, stole an errant pass and went all the way for his first bucket of the game to make it 63-59 at the end of the quarter.

Philadelphia’s 10 baskets in the third were one more than their total for the entire half and their 28 points were three shy off their halftime total.

“We’re just going to keep fighting,” Collins said. “That’s what we do.”

The Sixers had vowed they would be a more determined team after the veteran Celtics dismantled and demoralized them on their home court in Game 3.

The Sixers said after their 16-point loss in Game 3 that they would return more focused in preventing another hot Celtics start that took them out of the game and sucked the atmosphere out of the Wells Fargo Center.

The Celtics squashed that attitude before thousands of fans had taken their seats moments after the opening tip.

Pierce and Avery Bradley hit 3-pointers, Garnett hit a pull-up 20-footer and the Celtics raced to a 14-0 lead only 3½ minutes into the game.

The Sixers truly couldn’t find their footing. Young bounced the ball off his sneaker on a drive down the lane, and Pierce converted on the other end for an 18-3 lead.

The Celtics could never find that extra scoring boost to truly put away the Sixers. Rondo, Garnett and Ray Allen all had quiet first 24 minutes and the Celtics let the lead drop to seven.

Rondo scored an uncontested bucket coming out of a timeout to end the half and put the Celtics up 46-31.

“That was probably the worst we could shoot,” Iguodala said. “They were playing as good as they could play and we were shooting poorly.”

Notes: The 76ers head to Boston 2-8 over their last 10 road postseason games. … The Sixers haven’t won a playoff series when they trailed 2-1 since 2001.

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