The Philadelphia 76ers started the first and second round of the playoffs in the same way with a loss. However, Sixers fans like myself were far more pacified after their Game 1 first round loss than their loss to start the second. When the Sixers lost Game 1 to the Chicago Bulls on April 28, the Bulls still lost even more when Derrick Rose got injured, which handed Philadelphia an open window of opportunity.
Yet when the Sixers lost Game 1 to the Boston Celtics on May 12, the Celtics didn't lose one of their superstars to balance it out. Technically, Philadelphia played much better in this opener than it did in the opener at Chicago, since the Sixers only lost by one point in Boston. But given how they blew a real chance at a Game 1 upset, will it wind up closing their window of opportunity, or can they rally back in Game 2 on May 14?
For the second straight round, Philadelphia has to steal a Game 2 victory to avoid a 0-2 deficit coming back home. When the Sixers took away Game 2 over the Bulls on May 1, it signaled that they could handle the Bulls without Rose around and did so the rest of the way. Of course, their red hot second half in Game 2 was the kind of efficient, dominant performance they haven't really matched since.
They may need a hot second half like that to even things up with the Celtics, however. Philadelphia certainly has to play better than it did in the second half of Game 1, when it blew a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter. The Celtics survived being down by double digits twice, as the Sixers returned to their bad habit of being unable to close games against winning teams - at least fully healthy winning teams.
Since Philadelphia proved it could stand up to Boston and not roll over in this series, it might fuel hopes that it can go one better in Game 2. But on the other hand, did the Sixers blow the best chance they had to make this series competitive for the long haul? Now that the Celtics know they can't sleepwalk towards a conference final series with the Miami Heat, it may inspire them to get serious and breeze through.
This Game 2 will shape the direction for the rest of the series, as the one between the Sixers and Bulls did. Can Philadelphia make another statement and even things up against a heavy favorite? Or will that be harder to do against a healthier, experienced favorite who hopes it already survived its big scare of this series?
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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