By MyFM's Jake Archer - Were the Celtics really going to pull off a sweep of the heavily favored 76ers? Could they actually have them so rattled that they'd win another game on the road to close them out? I didn't really think so, but I was hoping to be wrong. The Sixers had been embarrassed in three straight games and they needed to find a way to just avoid the sweep. They did, and they escaped with a 103-92 victory to hold off elimination.
Like I said, I was pretty much expecting the Sixers to win the ball game. They are extremely talented and on their home floor, they needed to cruise. They didn't though, and I think many who watched the game would say they needed the help they got from the referees just to hold off Boston. To start the game, Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown made a move to change things up. He gave TJ McConnell the nod over Robert Covington, who had struggled big time in the series. McConnell isn't a big name, but he played well during the action he did see so far and Philly was hoping that would give them a jolt.
McConnell, who went undrafted, got hot and had the crowd chanting his name during one point in the game. He's been around for "The Process" and now is getting his shine in the playoffs. He scored a career-high 19 points in just his second start all season long. Philly will need more of that if they hope to make this a series in more must-win scenarios.
Although the Sixers were playing a bit better in the first half, they were off from behind the arc and didn't seem to have the rythmn they needed. The somewhat sparse crowd wasn't giving them the energy yet, and I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that they were just anticipating the inevitable elimination. Philly needed something to get them going and when Terry Rozier and Joel Embiid got into it in the first half, the crowd came alive. The two traded some pushes and a punch or two was attempted, but they were seperated rather quickly. Both players were hit with technicals and the bad blood was flowing.
Philly took a four-point lead into the half but anyone who has watched this series knew that they'd have to push the gas in the third quarter. If they let Boston hang around within 10, they were going to lose in the end. Luckily for them, things shifted their way. Embiid and other kept yapping and mixing it up with the Celtics (who responded with letting them know they were down 3 games to 0), and the crowd kept roaring after every big play. Still, the Sixers couldn't quite put Boston away on their own. The referees got involved and offered a little home-cooking and from there, the Celtics were overmatched. Philly gained control towards the end and took the win. They did not shoot off confetti this time.
Dario Saric showed up for the Sixers for the first time in this series, and he led the way with 25 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. McConnell, Ben Simmons and JJ Redick all scored at least 15 in the win as the starting lineup really did the work for Philly. On Boston's side, Jayson Tatum led the team with 20 points while also grabbing four rebounds, four assists and one block. Rozier, Marcus Morris, Al Horford and Marcus Smart all scored in double figures for the C's. Morris had his twin brother Markieff, of the Wizards, in the stands showing support. He was wearing a Celtics jersey and cheering on the visitors despite the brothers being from Philadelphia. Jaylen Brown, who came off the bench again, only played 23 minutes and seems hampered by his hamstring injury. Shane Larkin also left the game after sustaining a left shoulder injury early.
Now the series shifts back to Boston for Game 5 and Philly still has a tall task. No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit and despite the nice little win they got, I don't think they'll be the first. The Celtics didn't play their best last night and are already focused on stomping the Sixers out at home. I believe they'll do it, and move on to face LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 5 is set for Wednesday night at 8 p.m.