Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala scored five straight points in the final 90 seconds as the 76ers stormed back from 15 points down to stun the Boston Celtics 92-83 on Friday and square their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series at 2-2.
The young Sixers were a team reborn in the second half and refused to roll over for the championship-tested Celtics.
Iguodala, whose clutch performances in this postseason are turning around the often negative sentiment from fans, put the Sixers ahead 85-83 and buried a three-pointer for a five-point lead.
Iguodala scored 16 points, Evan Turner had 16 and Lou Williams added 15 for the Sixers, who will travel to Boston for Game 5 tomorrow.
Boston’s Kevin Garnett had his first bad outing in an otherwise monster series with nine points.
The Sixers just kept attacking, turning a first half of airballs, botched dunks and sloppy defense into a full-blown display of near-flawless basketball.
Thaddeus Young’s thunderous slam tied the game 63-63 in the middle of the fourth. And when Jodie Meeks drained a three-pointer on the Sixers’ next trip down the court for Philadelphia’s first lead, 20,000 fans erupted.
Williams hounded Paul Pierce and forced a turnover, fed the ball to a streaking Turner for a dunk and put the lead at 68-65.
Pierce had 24 points and Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists for the Celtics. Garnett, who turned 36 yesterday, missed nine of 12 shots.
Down 15 at the half, the hosts found their spark, their legs and their shooting touch to crank up the pressure on the Celtics.
Philadelphia’s 10 baskets in the third were one more than their total for the entire first half and their 28 points were three shy off their halftime total.
LAKERS 99, THUNDER 96
In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant made 18 free throws without a miss and scored 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, leading Los Angeles to victory over Oklahoma City, cutting the series deficit to 2-1.
When Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) swiped the ball from an opponent and hit two free throws with 12.9 seconds left, the third-seeded Lakers shook off the memory of their late collapse in Game 2.
Then when Thunder star Kevin Durant missed a potential tying three-pointer before Andrew Bynum blocked a shot at the buzzer, the Lakers’ frenzied crowd celebrated only their second victory in the past six playoff games.
Durant scored 31 points before missing his last shot for Oklahoma City, which could have moved to the brink of their second straight trip to the Western Conference finals. Instead, the Thunder lost for the first time in the postseason.
Game 4 in the back-to-back set was due to take place yesterday in Los Angeles.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden scored 21 points apiece for the Thunder, who could not match the Lakers’ late-game execution. Los Angeles finished on a 6-2 run in the final 33 seconds, all on free throws.
Bynum had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who got 12 points apiece from Pau Gasol, Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake. Gasol also had 11 rebounds and six assists.
Oklahoma City’s bench celebrated a 92-87 lead on Westbrook’s breakaway dunk with 2:55 to play, but the Lakers trimmed away with Gasol’s free throws, Bryant’s layup and several possessions of tenacious defense. Bryant’s free throws put the Lakers ahead with 1:09 to play.
Durant immediately hit a go-ahead jumper with a hand squarely in his face, but Bryant added two more free throws — his 15th and 16th — to put Los Angeles ahead 95-94. The Lakers finished 41 of 42 from the line, and the Thunder were 26 of 28.