Evan Turner forgot about the missed shots and craved another chance.
His short memory proved useful in the clutch for the 76ers.
Turner drove past Courtney Lee and tossed up an off-balance, right-handed shot for the winner with 3.9 seconds left to lead Philadelphia to a 95-94 overtime win against the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
Turner had 26 points and 10 rebounds but missed his first four shots in OT. Coach Doug Collins had told Turner at the start of overtime to take over and lead the Sixers to a win over a heated Atlantic Division rival. He finally snapped his slump with the game on the line.
”Hopefully, it’s the first of many,” Turner said. ”I’m glad I was able to break through.”
His 13-footer almost wasn’t enough at the end. But Rajon Rondo slipped and his ankles buckled on the last possession, costing him a chance to hit the potential game-winner, a dud ending to his sizzling triple-double.
”I should have took a layup,” Rondo said. ”It’s frustrating. But the good thing about the NBA is you’ve got a chance to bounce back tomorrow night and get it back.”
The same two teams meet again Saturday night in Boston. Unless he makes the game-winner, Rondo will have a tough time topping this one on short rest: He had 16 points, 14 assists and a season-high 13 rebounds for his 14th career triple-double. It’s the first time Boston lost any of those games.
Kevin Garnett had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Paul Pierce scored 27 points. Jeff Green, who gave Boston its last lead in OT with a 3-pointer, scored 19 points.
”Philly plays us tough. We all know that,” Garnett said. ”But we’re building something here, and we’ll take what we need out of this and get ready to get right back after them.”
Thaddeus Young added 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers. Jrue Holiday had 15 points, Jason Richardson 13 and Lavoy Allen grabbed 11 rebounds.
This game belonged to Turner. He finished 10 of 26 from the field but tossed in five assists and continued to shine in Collins’ watchful eyes.
”I feel a real connection with Evan and it feels great,” Collins said. ”I don’t know that Evan has trusted a lot of people in his life, but I hope he trusts me.”
Turner and Pierce nudged each other and yapped at the free throw line throughout a fourth quarter in which neither team budged. Turner recovered after Pierce tipped his jumper and drove down the lane for a layup and an 89-87 lead with 49 seconds left.
Jason Terry missed a drive and Garnett couldn’t convert the easy putback to give the Sixers a chance to seal the win. But their miss led to more life for the Celtics. This time, the veterans delivered.
Pierce escaped a fast double team and swung the ball to Garnett – who buried the tying 20-footer with 7.7 seconds left.
Pierce showed how a veteran operates in the fourth. Turner, in his third season, is still playing through mistakes. He was trapped in the corner with a timeout to spare and tossed a wild pass into the lane and the hands of a leaping Rondo.
Rondo missed at the buzzer to send the game into OT tied at 89.
”This is a make-miss league,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. ”When you miss open shots, you’re going to lose. And they made theirs.”
Rondo’s steal was another highlight in a game in which he was seemingly involved with every Boston bucket. His assist on Green’s corner 3-pointer late in the third gave him his first triple-double of the season and trimmed Philadelphia’s lead to four.
Spencer Hawes played his best game since opening night and gave the Sixers the production off the bench they’ve sorely needed in their so-so start. He answered Pierce’s tremendous dunk – he can still go at 35 – with a jumper for the lead. Hawes ended the third with a big right hand that swatted Pierce’s drive down the lane well away from the basket. The crowd of 17,921 went wild as the Sixers hung onto their 72-70 lead to end the third.
Pierce scored 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting over the first three quarters before letting Garnett do the heavy lifting in the fourth and OT.
The 76ers-Celtics rivalry used to be one of the best in the NBA. Philadelphia’s resurgence has helped heat up the series again and another tight game can only help a new generation get excited for this matchup.
Some trash talking never hurt in adding some juice to the division game, either. Turner hit a 3 over Pierce, then shouted in the Boston captain’s face early in the first quarter, though nothing really came of the exchange.
”When the adrenaline kicks in and trash talk occurs, you want to shut the other team up,” Turner said.
Pierce and Rondo each had near-flawless first quarters to set an early tone for the game. Rondo had 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the period.
Turner and Hawes kept the Sixers close in the second quarter and trimmed Boston’s lead to 50-46 at the break.
Notes: 76ers G Nick Young (toe), C Kwame Brown (virus) and G Royal Ivey (groin) all sat out. … Young lived up to his ”Swaggy P” nickname when he walked into the locker room wearing leopard skin shoes. … The 76ers have won five of seven vs. Boston.