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Allen stops Garnett

Sixers’ rookie didn’t start game but helped finish Celtics

Jim Davis/Globe StaffSixers Andre Iguodala (middle) and Jrue Holiday celebrate in the final minute. Jim Davis/Globe StaffSixers Andre Iguodala (middle) and Jrue Holiday celebrate in the final minute.
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 19, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA - It might have been respect for Elton Brand that kept Lavoy Allen out of the 76ers’ starting lineup in Game 4, but it wasn’t Allen’s production.

Even though coach Doug Collins made it clear that he didn’t intend to change his starters, Collins gave the minutes to the player who deserved them on Friday night, and that was Allen.

With the Sixers needing to contain Kevin Garnett - who finished with just 9 points on 3-of-12 shooting - those duties fell to Allen, who performed admirably, especially as the game wore on and the Sixers drew closer.

“Lavoy, once again, defensively just did a tremendous job,’’ Collins said.

He did a job good enough to allow Philadelphia a chance to tie the series, which it did with an improbable 92-83 win.

Allen had 8 points and a team-high 10 rebounds, five on the offensive end. (The Sixers, as a team, had 17 offensive rebounds.) In the series, Allen - drafted 50th overall last year - is shooting 53.6 percent from the floor.

The Sixers wanted, in particular, to take away Garnett’s deep post-ups. And they did, led by Allen.

When Celtics coach Doc Rivers was asked why Garnett was never very involved in the offense, he said, “Don’t know. I have to go look at that and figure that out.’’

Perhaps he should be looking at Allen.

“He’s an amazing guy,’’ Collins said. “There’s never a change with him. He’d be the greatest poker player in the world, because you never know whether it’s going good or bad for him. He is very, very smart.’’

Collins added, “My goal in life is to have one Lavoy Allen day. Just one. Just not give a [expletive] about anything.’’

The Sixers drafted Allen thinking he had first-round talent. They believed he had the ability. All they thought he needed was his intensity to increase. As Collins said, “His demeanor sometimes belies his competitiveness.’’

As much as Collins was happy to rely on Allen, he was not willing to start him. Before the game, Collins emphasized how important it was to have Brand start, even if the veteran had to be subbed out relatively quickly.

“No,’’ Collins said, when asked if he had thought about making the change.

After the game, Collins said, “If you noticed what I did tonight, I subbed a little early. I brought Lavoy in the game and Thad [Young] early, and put him on Garnett, maybe three minutes into the game . . . I tried to keep Lavoy’s strength on Garnett as much as possible.’’

Collins could, of course, start Allen, as the big man proved again Friday night. He had gotten into foul trouble in this series, including Game 3, but he didn’t on Friday, finishing with just one personal in 33 minutes.

“It’s tough because Lavoy, we’d like to have him on Garnett, but I’m not going to take Elton Brand out of the starting lineup,’’ Collins said before the game. “I’m not going to do that.’’

Collins said to get Brand going the Sixers needed to do a better job of moving the ball. But there were other issues. As Collins said, “I think his neck is bothering him more than what he wants to say. I’ll say that. I just watched him in shootaround today, and it’s hard for him to turn his neck.

“He’s one of the most proud guys I’ve ever been around. And so, I’m going to put him out there again tonight and see what he can do.’’

The Celtics went through something similar this season, when they asked Ray Allen to come off the bench. Boston inserted the younger and defensive-oriented Avery Bradley into Allen’s spot.

“I just think he deserves to start,’’ Collins said of Brand. “I think he’s one of our proudest players. I admire and respect him to the ultimate, and I’m not going to come in here in a game like tonight and have him not in our starting lineup. I’m just not going to do that.

“I have too much respect for this game and for him and what he’s done for our team, what he’s done for this organization. He was a much-maligned player here for a couple of years because of his contract and his injuries, and I’m going to give him every chance to be successful. I believe that’s what you do with players who are professional and do those kind of things. That’s just what I’m going to do.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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