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Sixers force game seven with Celtics

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, May 23 – The Philadelphia 76ers kept their season alive with an 82-75 victory over the Boston Celtics Wednesday to force a seventh game in their Eastern Conference playoff series.

Jrue Holiday finished with a team-high 20 points and six assists while Elton Brand had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Sixers who evened the second round series at three games each.

“We competed every possession. It was a battle,” Philadelphia head coach Doug Collins said. “Our guys did a really good job tonight.”

Game seven takes place in Boston on Saturday.

“We have given ourselves a chance. All we wanted was to win tonight and give ourselves a chance,” Collins added.

Philadelphia rebounded from a 101-85 loss in game five by rallying in the second half to beat the favoured Celtics.

Philadelphia missed 11 free throws, hit just one-of-nine from three-point range and were outrebounded 48-37. But the Sixers had five players reach double figures in scoring.

“That was a gutty win to say the least,” said Collins. “We had 33 points at halftime with five missed free throws and nine turnovers. It wasn’t a masterpiece. In the second half we took away a lot of those dunks and layups. Second half, we only had three turnovers.

“The one thing I wanted us to do was keep pushing.”

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Boston was equally inept at times, shooting just 33 percent from the floor and committing 17 turnovers.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett provided 24 and 20 points for Boston, who kept within striking distance by making 20-of-23 from the free-throw line.

“They had a lot of energy tonight and I just think they outplayed us,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Philadelphia. “We had a lot of empty possessions offensively.”

Game five hero Brandon Bass finished with just eight points on two-of-12 shooting. His 27 points sparked Boston to a 101-85 rout on Monday and a series lead.

Frenchman Mickael Pietrus drained a 22-foot jumper from beyond the arc to give the Celtics a 36-33 lead at halftime.

Philadelphia stepped it up in the third quarter, building a 60-56 lead going into the fourth.

The last time the 76ers and Celtics squared off in a game seven was 1982. The rivalry began back in 1949-50 when the 76ers were based in Syracuse.

“Game sevens are what they are,” Rivers said. “It is nice to have it at home but you have got to go get it.”

The 76ers and Celtics have met in the postseason 11 times with Boston winning seven of those.

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