December 22 Philadelphia Inquirer:
BOSTON – The 76ers needed to beat a lot of things on Wednesday night: the explosive energy inside a sold-out TD Garden, the emotional impact of their embarrassing loss a night earlier, and, of course, the Boston Celtics themselves.
While the Celtics hadn’t lost since last month, the Sixers were only one day removed from an epic loss to the Chicago Bulls.
And yet as the game wore on, it was difficult to tell which was the better team.
Back and forth went the game, and the score.
But at crunch time, the Celtics proved why they’ve now won 14 games in a row, pulling away from the Sixers, 84-80.
The Sixers dropped to 11-18. The Celtics, led by Ray Allen’s 22 points, improved to 23-4.
On Tuesday night, the Sixers trailed by as many as 51 points in a 121-76 loss at the Bulls, a game that left some wondering exactly how much the Sixers had improved.
Led by Jrue Holiday’s 15 points and Elton Brand’s 16 points and 12 rebounds, the Sixers were ahead for much of the fourth quarter against Boston. Allen’s two free throws with 5.6 seconds left sealed it.
Before the game, Sixers coach Doug Collins explained that the first 10 possessions would determine his team’s energy level. Considering Tuesday night’s embarrassment, gauging his team’s defensive focus early in the game was no easy matter.
About midway through the first quarter, passing that 10-possession barometer, the Sixers were holding the Celtics to under 40 percent shooting and sticking close as the period ticked away.
If not for Allen’s smooth jumper, the Sixers would have been about even at the end of the first quarter. As it stood, the Celtics were ahead, 23-17, and Allen had 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the floor.
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