PHILADELPHIA -- The third quarter -- "the survival quarter," according to Boston coach Doc Rivers -- again proved pivotal in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series Wednesday night between the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.
Whichever team outscored the other in that period has won all six games in the series and, on Wednesday, the Sixers owned a 27-20 advantage, en route to an 82-75 victory, allowing them to force a seventh and deciding game Saturday in Boston.
"We've given ourselves a chance," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "All we wanted was to win tonight and give ourselves a chance to go into Boston and see what happens Saturday in Game 7."
Jrue Holiday scored 20 points, and Elton Brand added 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Sixers went from six down early in the third quarter to 11 up early in the fourth, then held on.
Paul Pierce had 24 points and 10 rebounds to lead Boston. Kevin Garnett, booed every time he touched the ball after saying the Sixers had "fair-weather" fans following Game 5, added 20 points and 11 boards.
"I thought they had a lot of energy tonight, a lot of energy from the building," Rivers said. "I really thought they just outplayed us tonight."
Five players scored in double figures for the Sixers, who won despite shooting 17-for-28 at the foul line and missing eight of nine three-point attempts. They were also outrebounded, 48-37. But they limited the Celtics to 33.3-percent shooting, while shooting 45.7 percent themselves. And they outscored Boston 42-16 on points in the paint.
They never trailed after reeling off 11 consecutive points early in the third period, erasing a 41-35 deficit. Brand scored the first four points in that flurry, and Andre Iguodala capped the run with a thunderous slam dunk on which he drew a foul from Pierce. Iguodala then made the free throw as well.
The Sixers, up 60-56 at the end of the quarter, extended their advantage to 70-59 with 7:15 left. Holiday had four points in the early stages of the period, and Lou Williams had the basket that put them up 11. Boston was never close than six after that.
Iguodala and Evan Turner had 12 points apiece for the Sixers, and Williams had 11.
Collins praised Holiday, who was not made available to reporters after the game, for staying in "attack mode." And Rivers noted that the Sixers repeatedly ran isolation plays, that they were "picking who they wanted" to attack.
"That's what I would do," Rivers said. "You can't blame them for doing it."
But Rivers had even more problems with how his team performed at the offensive end, saying that the Celtics' spacing was "horrendous," resulting in one aimless possession after another.
"They muddied it up with their defense, and we muddied it up with our offense," he said. "It was a
And now there's one more game.
"Game 7s are what they are," Rivers said. "It's nice to have it at home, but you've got to go get it still. You can't just rely on (the fact that) we're at home. I do like that we have an extra day (of rest). I think that helps us a little bit."
The Sixers broke out to a 9-4 lead at the beginning of the game, and were in front most of the first half.
But after Iguodala's dunk with 8:19 left in the first half gave them a 28-23 lead, they didn't score again until Turner made a jumper with 3:02 remaining, missing nine shots in a row and turning the ball over twice.
The Celtics responded by reeling off eight consecutive points, four each by Garnett and Pierce, to go up 31-28.
The game was tied twice after that, the last time at 33-33. But Boston's Mickael Pietrus took a pass from Rajon Rondo and nailed a three-pointer from the left corner with 0.5 of a second left in the half to give Boston a 36-33 lead at the break. It was the only three-pointer by either team in the first half.
Pierce scored 11 before intermission for Boston, which shot 31.7 percent to that point. Holiday had eight to lead Philadelphia, which was outscored 17-11 in the second quarter.
NOTES: Former Sixers great Allen Iverson delivered the game ball before tipoff. ... Boston guard Avery Bradley missed his second consecutive game with a sore left shoulder, and remains "day-to-day," according to Rivers. ... Collins said he was "very surprised" Iguodala was not voted to the NBA's All-Defensive Team. Iguodala, who in Collins' eyes is "definitely one of the premier defenders at his position in this league," narrowly missed a berth on the second team. ... Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was part of the crowd, as was the U.S. women's soccer team.