A Tale of Two Victories

15 May

The remote control was on fire in our den last night.  Two teams, two games, one start time.  Both the Phillies and 76ers have had their ups and downs this season.  As Dickens would say:  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” But lucky for us, last night, for both teams, it was the former.

The Phillies had their ace on the mound on a rainy night at Citizens Bank Park.  Halladay?  Lee?  Come on now, it was Big Joe Blanton.  They were trying to put two wins in a row, a feat that has not come easy for the team that led the league in victories last season. But while every victory is important for the Phillies, there was another Philadelphia team in action last night that needed a win even more.

 300 miles west, in Beantown, the Philadelphia 76ers were about to tip it off against the heavily favored Boston Celtics who already led in this Round 2 playoff series 1-0.  Yes, this was once a storied rivalry but these are not the Sixers of old with superstars Julius Erving and Moses Malone.  This was a team of relative unknowns, like Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams who would be facing some of the legends in the sport, future Hall of Famers Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  And after the Celtics scored 9 unanswered points to start the game, that experience seemed to be paying off.   

Back in Philadelphia, the Phillies were having their own problems scoring.  They only had one hit and were held scoreless in the first four innings by Astros pitcher Lucas Harrell.  Who???  But Big Joe was keeping pace.  It was starting to look like yet another one of those no offense nights for the Phils.

 And the 76ers were not doing much better.  They had only 15 points in the second quarter and 36 for the entire first half.  But thanks to some equally poor shooting by the Celtics the Sixers were only down two at the half.  There would not be many offensive highlights for SportsCenter in this match-up.  This would be grind it out, nail-biting, last team standing kind of basketball, the kind of close low-scoring game that usually favors the team with more playoff experience and there was no question who led in that department.

The Phillies finally broke things open in the bottom of the fifth.  Ok, so it was a hit batsman, an error and a sacrifice bunt but Freddy Galvis did get a single to drive in the game’s first run.  The Phils added two more in the 6th which was more than enough for the Phils new ace.  Blanton allowed six hits, only one run and struck out seven before being replaced by Antonio Bastardo in the eighth.  But these days a 3-1 lead hardly feels secure, at least not until the ninth.

And nothing would be secure for either the Sixers or the Celtics on this night.  Every time one team got a little breathing room, the other came right back.  And when Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer with 1:40 left to give the Celtics the lead, then forced the Sixers into a 24-second violation, things looked bleak.  A Celtics score here might have been too much for the young Sixers to overcome.  It was starting to look like game 1 all over again, a heartbreaker that the 76ers lost by one point. 

Not to be outdone, there was still a little drama left at the Bank and not even the rain could put a damper on this one.  In the eighth inning, Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco, not known for his power, hit his first home run of the season.  But that wasn’t the number that counted.  It may have been his first home this year but it was the 2,000 hit of his career.  He becomes just the 17th active player to accomplish this feat.  Joe Blanton was just happy to be a part of it: “It was good to… see him do that.  He’s a great teammate and a great guy.”  And Blanton’s not so bad himself.  With yesterday’s win the Phils have now won three of Blanton’s last four starts, which is worth noting because they are winless in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee’s last nine combined starts.

For the Sixers, it was down to the wire (and we were down to the nubs of our fingernails.)  Another last-second loss would put them two down in the series not to mention what it could do to a young team’s psyche.  But somehow, some way, this resilient bunch was not going to let this one slip away.  And it was fitting that it was the Sixers young guns who made the plays when it counted the most.  Rookie Lavoy Allen, hardly expected to play at all this season, hit a huge jumper with 4 minutes left in the game and just 0.9 left on the shot clock.  The teams then matched bucket for bucket until Evan Turner, who was having one of the worst games of his NBA career, drained a tough driving lay-up with 40.4 seconds left giving his team a lead they would never relinquish.  They Sixers even went 6 for 6,  hitting their clutch foul shots down the stretch, something they have been struggling with all season.  The win ties the series 1-1 as the teams head to Philadelphia for Game 3. 

Both teams will be in action again Wednesday night so get the remote ready.  Do you think my fingernails will have time to grow back by then?

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2 Responses to “A Tale of Two Victories”

  1. Lois May 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    You are so rad!

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