You'd be forgiven if you didn't have at least one eye on the Wednesday night tilt between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers — it was a 7:30 p.m. ET tip, after all, and there was a pretty enticing contest that had a half-hour jump on these two bottom-of-the-league squads — but those who stuck with it were rewarded with a little bit of late-game drama, and a fine individual effort from the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft.
Evan Turner seemed ready to be fitted for goat horns after missing not only 11 of his 16 field goal attempts, but also the back end of a pair of free throws hat would have tied the game with 34 seconds left. The Celtics couldn't capitalize and extend their one-point advantage, though, thanks to Kris Humphries missing a wide-open 16-footer from the left baseline created by a lovely play call by Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Rookie Michael Carter-Williams rebounded the clanged jumper, and while Philly had two timeouts available that coach Brett Brown could have used to advance the ball and design a potential game-winner of his own, his young point guard stayed true to his team's go-go identity, pushing the ball up the court before flipping the rock to Turner with 5.5 seconds left and a chance to make something happen:
Turner squared up on Celtics defender Jerryd Bayless, took a couple of cursory dribbles to the right to get him leaning, and then quickly crossed back to his left and darted toward the paint. The Celtics defended it well, with Bayless staying on Turner's right hand/hip and Boston big man Jared Sullinger stepping up with his arms outstretched to meet the 76ers swingman just outside the restricted area. His path cut off, Turner elevated, contorted his body and flipped up a righty runner with just under one second remaining that rattled in as the buzzer sounded. Sixers win, 95-94.
It wasn't a particularly pretty offensive evening for Turner, who finished with 16 points on 6 for 17 shooting (though he did add eight assists without a turnover and six rebounds), but it was a beautiful finish for the Sixers, and a validation of the decision not to stop the clock and allow Boston's defense to get set by calling a timeout after Humphries' miss. From Howard Ulman of The Associated Press:
"I wasn't listening [to whether Brown was calling a timeout] at all," Turner said. "I was just going to get it and try to get a good shot up." [...]
Deciding whether to call a timeout "is one of the most difficult decisions because it seems like life is in slow motion," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. "I've learned the busted play, the broken play, the random play is probably as good an environment as you're going to get often."
Especially when the "random play" puts the ball in the hands of Turner, who, as the Celtics' Stevens said after the game, "has a history of doing that in those situations," having locked down final-shot victories over the Celtics and Brooklyn Nets in the past. As a matter of fact, Turner ranks 10th in the NBA this season in points scored in the "clutch" — defined as the last five minutes of a game where the margin is five points or less — with 67, one fewer than Carmelo Anthony and one more than Dirk Nowitzki, in 92 minutes spread over 20 games.
There hasn't been a ton of clutch time for the 76ers this season, of course, as they go about the grim, blowout-loss-filled business of rebuilding; in fact, as Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, "One could argue that Turner won a game the Sixers might have been better off losing," considering Philly and Boston find themselves in the same bottom-of-the-league-trawling boat when it comes to accruing losses to increase the number of ping-pong balls they receive in the 2014 NBA draft lottery. Thanks to Turner's game-winner, the Celtics (15-33) now have a two-game "lead" in the loss column over the 76ers (15-31), giving them the third-worst record in the NBA and the Sixers the fourth-worst.
Oh, well. You can't lose them all, I suppose, and if you're going to win them, you might as well do it in a cool way.
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