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76ers notebook

After break, a breakthrough

Williams erupted in the second half

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 20, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA - Going into Friday night’s game, there were multiple members of the Sixers who had underperformed or even disappeared in this series against the Celtics. Lou Williams was one of them, not able to demonstrate the shot-making, shot-creating ability that made Celtics coach Doc Rivers nervous before the series.

Then came Game 4. Or, specifically, the second half of Game 4.

“Once you’re down, 2-1, and you’re down 18 at one point, everything goes out the window,’’ Williams said. “You just compete at that point. It goes down to the very fundamental thing that you learn, and you live with the result.’’

The Sixers were able to live with the result Friday night - not only their 92-83 victory that evened the series, but especially in terms of Williams’s game. Though Williams was the Sixers’ leading scorer in the regular season (14.9-point average off the bench), he scored just 30 total in the first three games of the series.

Coach Doug Collins had said before Game 4 that the Sixers needed to get more movement on offense, to not be satisfied with jump shots. Williams was a big part of that movement, that cutting and driving.

For Williams, like the Sixers, it was the second half when he really shined. Williams scored 13 of his 15 points after the break, and dished out seven of his eight assists. He had had only seven assists in the first three games combined.

It was those assists - a career high for Williams - that made an impression on Andre Iguodala. It was a pass from Williams that set up Iguodala for the 3-pointer that put the Sixers up by 5 in the fourth quarter.

“That’s not the first time he has found me right there in that same exact spot,’’ Iguodala said. “We’ve done that before.’’

But never in a spot so big.

“When we were bleeding, Lou has that capability,’’ Collins said. “Lou, big shots. And then he made a huge pass. He was shooting the ball so well, and he got in the paint and kicked out to Dre and put us up 5.’’

Collins saw Williams getting tired in the second half. But he also knew he would need him down the stretch. So he gave him a 90-second breather. That was enough.

“I was hoping the fans were saying ‘Lou’ and not booing me for taking him out at that point in time,’’ Collins said.

But then, out of a timeout, Williams hit a jumper to put the Sixers up, 76-74, after a miss and an offensive rebound. And in the remaining five minutes of the game, there wasn’t a lot left to boo for Sixers fans.

No quit in them

The Sixers were down in Game 4 immediately, allowing the Celtics to build a 14-0 lead. The young team could have crumbled at that point, but didn’t.

“We’re doing a better job of saying, ‘Keep fighting, keep fighting, keep pushing, keep pushing,’ ’’ Iguodala said. “We’ve been down before and we’ve gotten back in. We’ve been down before and we’ve kind of given the game away.

“We’ve been in a lot of different situations, and we’ve learned from it. We were talking about our growth throughout these playoffs, and we’re starting to be consistent with growing up, and our young guys doing better in certain situations.’’

Added Iguodala, “They say experience can get you through playoff games. We don’t have as much experience as Boston together, but we definitely have a lot of experience in a lot of situations we’ve been through - being down a lot, close games. We’ve lost.

“Our psyche is a little different because we know we’ve been there before and we feel like we can get out of these situations.’’

Picking it up

Williams wasn’t the only member of the Sixers to come up big in the second half. Thaddeus Young, who had been the team’s leading scorer in the abysmal Game 3 loss, picked up his game as well. Collins praised his “interior passing’’ in the second half as a key . . . Evan Turner had a rough first half, making just 2 of 14 shot attempts. But he made 2 of 4 during the third-quarter comeback. “I had no choice,’’ Turner said, in terms of putting the first half behind him . . . The Sixers did not practice Saturday. They were scheduled to get back to work Sunday morning before traveling in the afternoon to Boston for Monday’s Game 5.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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