Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's not often that the opposition has the
ghosts on their side against the Boston Celtics.
The 17-time world champions have a storied tradition few can match in sports,
but Philadelphia is the C's biggest rival and the Sixers have had quite a few
moments of their own over the years even if it's been a while.
One of those signature moments came 30 years ago when Andrew Toney and the
76ers vanquished the Larry Bird-era Celtics during Game 7 of the Eastern
Conference finals in the old Boston Garden.
Unlike Albert DeSalvo, who some investigators have suggested wasn't solely
responsible for the so-called "silk stocking murders" committed in Beantown
back in the 1960s, Toney lived up to his nickname as "The Boston Strangler"
The high-scoring Toney set the tone for the game by netting 14 points in the
first quarter and hitting the gas again later when the Celtics trimmed the
Sixers' lead to just two in the second half. By the final buzzer, Toney had
amassed 34 points in a 120-106 Philadelphia rout.
Fast forward to Wednesday night in South Philly.
With their season on the line against a heavily favored Boston team, the
Sixers' rookie ownership group pulled off quite a coup by bringing back
another legendary name, Allen Iverson, to hand referee Joey Crawford the game
ball before tip-off.
A former MVP who led the Sixers to their last appearance in the NBA Finals
back in 2001, Iverson's appearance blew the roof off Wells Fargo Center.
Remembering Toney was a tactic Doug Collins used to fuel his young team and
bringing in Iverson, one of the best pure scorers in NBA history, was supposed
to ignite the crowd in an effort to force another Game 7 back in TD Garden on
The underdog Sixers proved they had plenty of fight left in them, forcing a
final contest by taking the penultimate game in the East semifinals with an
82-75 victory over the cold-shooting Celtics.
"All we wanted was to win tonight and give ourselves a chance to go into
Boston and see what happens Saturday in Game 7," Collins said.
The eighth-seeded 76ers missed 11 free throws, hit just 1 of 9 from 3-point
range and were outrebounded 48-37, but nevertheless pulled out a gusty
win by holding Boston to 33 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers.
Philadelphia had five players reach double figures -- led by Jrue Holiday's 20
points -- but it was the defense that has the series headed back to New
England for a winner-take-all battle.
History certainly won't be on the Sixers side over the weekend. The franchise
has forced a Game 7 after trailing in a series 3-2 on eight different
occasions and won just once, back in the 1955 NBA Finals when it was known as
the Syracuse Nationals.
Few expected Philadelphia to win on Wednesday and even fewer will expect it to
happen again over the weekend, but Collins feels his team isn't done and Boston
has come up woefully short in its last two Game 7s at home, losing by 27 vs.
Indiana in 2005 and by 19 against Orlando in '09.
Asked if he was already satisfied by what his young team has accomplished, the
coach quickly brushed aside that kind of thinking.
"I'm not giving them that out," he said. "Now I want more. We're going to get
greedy. We've fought. We've worked and we've grown as a team."
More, of course, means walking onto the parquet floor and ignoring the ghosts
of Russell, Cousy, Havlicek, Bird and McHale. It means beating the Boston
Three Party in a sea of green.
So cue up the Dropkick Murphys because the Sixers are "Shipping up to Boston"
for the final act in just the latest chapter of one of the game's most storied
And they are doing it with house money.
"I don't want to go in with that 'no matter what happens, everything's OK'
mindset," Collins said. "I want to go in with the idea, 'Let's see what we can
do. Let's see if we can go get us a win.'"
The Sports Network