Celtics Implode in Second Half of Game 4; Series Tied 2-2

Andre Iguodala dunks against Kevin Garnett in Friday's Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics built a big lead Friday night in Philadelphia, then quit.

The Philadelphia 76ers, on the other hand, never quit. And once they pulled back into the game, that sustained effort translated into unstoppable momentum, a 92-83 victory over the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and a 2-2 series tie.

Game 5 takes place Monday back in Boston.

Bad Third for Celtics Keys Comeback Fourth for 76ers

The Celtics built a 17-point lead on a Paul Pierce (game-high 24 points) technical just over two minutes into the third quarter. Elton Brand picked up the technical, but his physicality ignited the previously lazy 76er defense. Over the first seven minutes of the third, the Celtics didn’t score a field goal. The 76ers, meanwhile scored 10 unanswered to cut the Celtics’ lead to 50-43.

Pierce’s three-pointer (one of four) built Boston’s lead back to 54-46 with five minutes left, but Philadelphia played the rest of the game fully confident they could win. Boston held just a 63-59 lead after three, and Philadelphia tied the game on back-to-back buckets from Thaddeus Young to start the fourth.

The two teams traded baskets throughout most the final quarter, with neither team building too big a lead. Pierce’s free throws put the Celtics up 74-72, but Young tied it again, then backup point guard Lou Williams hit a jumper for a 76-74 76er lead.

Ray Allen‘s three-pointer – his only field goal of the night – put the Celtics back up by one, and Kevin Garnett‘s free throws stretched the lead to 79-76. But the 76ers answered again, with Andre Iguodala tying the game with a three. Iguodala scored eight of his 16 total points in the closing 3:11, combining a jumper with a three-pointer to break an 83-83 tie and put the 76ers up five.

The Celtics couldn’t answer the 76ers again, and the 76ers finished the game on a 9-0 stretch. They out-rebounded the Celtics 52-38 Friday, using a 17-5 advantage on the offensive glass to extend possessions and exhaust a Celtics defense that had held them to 23 percent shooting in the first half.

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NBA Must Win Back the Fans

Collective bargaining negotiations between the NBA and NBPA are almost done. Both sides can now concentrate on reconnecting with the fans. (celticshub.com)

(also published on DigBoston.com)

NBA owners and NBA Players’ Association executive director Billy Hunter reached a tentative agreement Saturday that could end the class-action lawsuits, reform the NBPA and allow for an abbreviated, 66-game 2011-12 NBA season.

Should the players ratify, they will give up just over 6 percent of the vaunted Basketball Related Income. In return, their new collective bargaining agreement will, among other stipulations: improve qualifying offers for NCAA “starters” entering the NBA, increase the maximum salary for young players who finish their rookie contracts and re-sign with their old teams, and maintain player-controlled option years.

This new CBA would either improve on or at least maintain the current money-making possibilities available to both young players and veterans, so it’s unlikely that a workforce eager to return to work wouldn’t ratify and reform. That means the battle for the CBA is just about over.

The battle for the fans, however, has just begun.

This negotiation took far too long to reach the outcome that fans and the media knew was coming. For whatever reason, the NBA doesn’t make what the NFL or MLB does (and kudos to the MLB, by the way, for quickly and quietly reaching a new CBA). Players make too much, teams make too little, and some re-division was simply inevitable.

While both sides crawled towards the inevitable BRI re-splitting, fans were subjected to an ugly, hostile “negotiation.”

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