The Philadelphia 76ers were practically pronounced dead by the NBA at large after Game 3 on May 16. Sixers fans like myself were hard pressed to argue that the Boston Celtics hadn't taken total control of their series after that victory. Then all those that tried probably gave up after the first half of Game 4 on May 18, which seemed to officially bury the Sixers another few feet under.
Yet just as the Sixers were sent to the electric chair, a last second pardon brought them back to life even after they were halfway dead. A 14-0 opening Celtics run, a 15-point halftime deficit and a Boston lead as large as 18 points still wasn't enough to kill Philadelphia. And if all this still resulted in a 92-83 Sixers victory, what can kill them now?
The Sixers aren't considered one of those teams that can flip the switch, rally from massive deficits or handle any kind of last minute thriller. And yet there they were, looking brain dead in the first half before provoking the Celtics into losing their cool, hitting three-pointers, actually playing defense again and steadily closing in on a shocking lead.
But even when Philadelphia finally went ahead in the fourth quarter, Boston still hung on and had a chance to secure an much more crushing victory. Yet another left for dead star, Andre Iguodala, provided the final boost after the game was tied for the last time at 83. His jumper gave the Sixers the lead for good, and then his three-pointer moments later finally sucked the life out of the Celtics - who were not as equipped to make an impossible rally.
In just about 24 minutes, Game 4 had a 24 point swing that turned this series from over to perhaps just beginning. That can be said of the Sixers at large as well, who pulled off their most puzzling miracle to date.
They were supposed to be dead after their poor second half, but the Chicago Bulls then broke down in front of them. They were then supposed to be manhandled by the experienced, slightly healthier Celtics, and it looked like that would finally happen after the first game-and-a-half in Philadelphia.
Yet although the Sixers should have been killed off long ago, they are two wins from the Eastern Conference finals - and they might not even have to face the Miami Heat there. For some reason or another, Philadelphia is being built up as a team of destiny in these playoffs.
Now that this has become particularly clear after the Game 4 revival, Boston must wonder what it will take to make a series win as inevitable as everyone thought. That is, assuming it is still in the cards for the Celtics now.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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