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For many Sixers, a whole new experience

Game 7 will be their first big test

By Jon Marks
Globe Correspondent / May 26, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA — The one Sixer who knows what it's like to beat the Celtics in a Game 7 at TD Garden probably won't even play Saturday night. Then again, Tony Battie played just 3 minutes 5 seconds and went scoreless while the rest of the Orlando Magic were draining 13 3-pointers to stun the Kevin Garnett-less Celtics, 101-82, in 2009.

No one else on Doug Collins's team knows what they will be up against when they take the court with a trip to Miami for the Eastern Conference finals on the line. No other Sixer knows what the building will be like.

In fact, besides Battie, only starting power forward Elton Brand and little-used swingman Sam Young know what it's like to play a seventh game, period. Perhaps, though, that will be a blessing rather than a curse for Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Lou Williams and Co.

"Some of these guys are doing something special and they don't know it yet," said the 36-year-old Battie. "I'm just going to tell them to go out and play hard. At the same time, I kind of want to keep them naive to where they are. Sometimes when you're in a fight you don't realize how big the battle is. I don't want to tell them that and let them see the big picture, especially if they have tunnel vision and it's been working for them."

Whatever Battie does say, his message will be well-received.

"I think Tony is a great voice for our guys because he’s so well-respected," said Collins, whose biggest concern is whether his team will be able to keep its poise. "He can talk about coming in there with Orlando. But every team is a little different."

So is every Game 7.

"Any Game 7 or deciding game, you have to weather the storm," said Battie, who'll be involved in his third winner-take-all showdown, including the Celtics' 120-87 Game 5 romp over the Sixers in 2002. "They're going to hit us with their best shot, we have to stay poised. Weather their runs and keep the crowd in their seats and just chip away. We can't do things uncharacteristic of our team. Sometimes you think the outside stuff plays a part in it, but a game's a game.

"We have all the respect in the world for the banners and all the greats who played for the Celtics. But we can't go in there thinking about that. Block all that out and try to win the game."

Even if they've been treated like the uninvited guest who has crashed the playoff party and simply refuses to leave.

"Right before we get out there I'll talk to them and motivationally speaking say we're not supposed to be here," said Battie, the No. 5 overall pick in the 1997 draft who's now playing for his sixth team. "We're the eighth seed. If Derrick Rose was healthy, we wouldn't be here. Without Derrick Rose the Bulls were still supposed to beat us, and we overcame that. We weren't supposed to have a shot against the Celtics, and to read some of articles, the Celtics let us come back in Game 4 and should've beaten us in 5.

"This was not supposed to happen. And we're definitely out of there [Saturday], according to everybody. I just want us to go play hard and let us be the determining factor, not the writers or the basketball analysts."

That's what the Magic did against the Celtics in 2009. Of course, the Sixers don' have Dwight Howard. But Collins still feels they deserve to be here.

"I think everyone around the country has said we've earned the right to play this Game 7," said Collins, who played in one Game 7 in his career, as he and the Sixers beat the Celtics at Boston Garden in 1977. "We've gone toe-to-toe with this Boston team and I think we've earned our right to be here.

"We may not have the prettiest of teams. I think we've won five games in the playoffs in the 90s. What speaks volumes is after every game we've lost, we've come back and won. The guys have found a way to become incredibly resilient."

That resilience is sure to be put to the test Saturday night.

"We have to give ourselves every opportunity to win," said Battie. "Stay consistent with singles and doubles, don't swing for the home run. Just nickel and dime them until we get a dollar."

And just maybe, it will pay off with a date against the Heat.

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