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Complete turnaround

Sixers’ Turner leads late charge

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / May 15, 2012
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For the longest time, it looked like it was going to be another tough night for 76ers guard Evan Turner. Missed shots, turnovers, and missed opportunities that brought memories of mistakes he made in Saturday night’s 92-91 loss to the Celtics in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.

But then in the final hectic moments of another close encounter with the Celtics, Turner was everywhere. Or it just seemed like that as he came up with a steal, an almost routine short-range jumper, and then an anything-but-routine driving layup in the final minute. Turner also made two clutch free throws with 12 seconds left that greatly aided the Sixers’ 82-81 victory at TD Garden, which evened the series and gave Philadelphia a much-needed confidence boost.

For Turner, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds Saturday night but also had as many turnovers (4) as he did steals, Monday night there was the satisfaction of scoring 6 of his 10 points in a fourth quarter in which the Sixers started with an 8-point lead, gave it away, but then took it back in the final seconds.

Turner is one of the Sixers’ youngsters who are getting on-the-job training in the playoffs. The second-year guard from Ohio State was just one part of a core group that knocked off No. 1 seed Chicago in six games and now has stolen a home game from the Celtics.

“Our young guys just keep growing and they’re really becoming men,’’ said coach Doug Collins. “I’m so proud of them. We just found a way. Again I have to tell you all season long we couldn’t win these games and now our guys are believing they can do it and it is pretty special to watch.’’

A really special part was Turner’s twisting layup with 40.4 seconds left that gave the Sixers a 76-75 lead they would not relinquish.

“They made two shots that were unbelievable,’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, referring to Turner’s basket and a 24-second shot clock buzzer-beater by Lavoy Allen that broke a 65-65 tie. “Allen makes the bank shot . . . and then Evan Turner made a miraculous shot,’’ said Rivers.

When asked if his basket was the biggest of his life, Allen, a 6-foot-9-inch rookie from Temple, said, “Yeah, I would say so. I would definitely say so.’’

And then there was Turner, who has improved all season.

“I think we saw the same type of game last game,’’ he said. “And we spoke on our day off and we just all pulled together and believed we could win the game and that’s what really happened.’’

As for his go-ahead basket, Turner, who had missed similar opportunities earlier in the game, said he simply saw another chance.

“I saw isolation,’’ he said. “I had to make a play for the team. That was it. I focused on the rim the whole time and I knew one shot was going in since I was missing so many other ones throughout the game.’’

Turner said the team is getting used to hectic endings of games.

“I think it’s happened so much in the last series and in Game 1, [so] we’ve gotten used to it. We’ve learned how to pull through and tough it out and understand what it takes to be in tough games and pull those games out.’’

Turner’s teammates did not disagree.

“I think the Chicago series really set us up for this series,’’ said Andre Iguodala, who scored 13 points, handed out 7 assists, and pulled down 6 rebounds. “They [Celtics] are a scrappy team, defensively they were excellent. They’re about as good as you’re going to get.’’

And the Sixers are dead even with them after two games in Boston.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.

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