Heading into a win-or-go-home Game 6 against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins said his team needed point guard Jrue Holiday to ramp up his aggression, get to the basket more frequently and put up more shots to give Philly a chance of extending the series to Game 7. Apparently, the third-year guard listens.
Holiday took 15 shots on Wednesday night, the most of any Sixer, and posted a team-leading 20 points as Philly scored an 82-75 Game 6 win to knot this second-round series at three games apiece. As we discussed Wednesday, though, the key wasn't just that Holiday get his shots up, but where he got them up; after taking just five attempts at the rim in Games 4 and 5 combined, Holiday went 3 for 5 at the tin in Game 6 and 6 for 10 within nine feet of the basket, according to Hoopdata's shot location statistics, meaning that despite having gone 9 for 19 from 3-point range in the series' first five games, he refused to fall in love with his jumper and just continued attacking the paint.
Even when he didn't connect on the bucket, the attacks paid dividends — Holiday attempted (and made) six free throws Wednesday night, one fewer than he'd tried in the first five games combined, and four of his six assists led to baskets at the rim for his teammates. By routinely beating Boston's defense off the bounce and getting into the lane, Holiday was able to generate offense not only for himself, but for the rest of the Sixers, and in a game where both teams struggled with their jumpers — Philly was just 12 for 35 from beyond 10 feet, while Boston was a ghastly 17 for 56 — the team able to produce and convert more up-close opportunities came away with the win.
It wasn't pretty, to be sure, but it was a win, and it sets the stage for an intriguing series-ender between a Celtics crew that looks gassed and a Sixers squad facing its first Game 7. If Holiday can continue to get to the basket against a Celtics backcourt whose best perimeter defender, Avery Bradley, is reportedly being shut down for the remainder of the season due to his persistent shoulder injuries, the eighth-seeded Sixers could find themselves in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since Wednesday night star Allen Iverson led them there in 2001. It's an outcome that seemed all but unthinkable a few weeks back, but as Holiday and his teammates are learning, relentlessness can render reason obsolete.
Video via our friends at the National Basketball Association.