Heading into Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers up 3-0, the Boston Celtics aren't about to get caught looking past a team that entered the series winners in 20 of 21 games.
That much was made clear by Boston guard Jaylen Brown after the Celtics' 101-98 overtime win in Game 3 on Saturday at Wells Fargo Center.
"We shouldn't get caught up," Brown told reporters after they told him that Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the team shouldn't get 'caught up' with a big series lead. "We gotta finish the drill. I'm not one that was ever taught to play with our food, so when it comes down to it, we gotta finish it. It's first to four, so we gotta take care of business."
The Celtics have already taken three big bites out of the 76ers.
Philadelphia, though, won't go down easy.
It's not as if Boston has dominated the series: the 76ers led by 22 points in a 108-103 loss in Game 2 and led Game 3 by six late in the second quarter.
But 76ers rookie Ben Simmons needs to re-emerge as the triple-double force he was late in the regular season. After scoring just one point in Game 2, Simmons had 16, with eight rebounds and eight steals, but he also turned the ball over four times and had a plus/minus ratio of negative-11.
Worse, Simmons missed a critical shot at just the wrong time, which prompted him to say he has some "learning to do." With less than 30 seconds left in overtime, Joel Embiid missed a jumper and Simmons rebounded the ball with 18 seconds left on the clock. Rather than milk the time, Simmons tried a putback, missed, and Boston's Marcus Morris grabbed the rebound.
Celtics big man Al Horford scored with 5.5 seconds left to put the Celtics up.
"Young guys at times look young," 76ers head coach Brett Brown said. "We're going to have to find places in this experience, and learn from it, and that's a great example of one of them."
While Simmons is struggling in his first second-round series, Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum continues to thrive. Tatum scored 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting in Game 3, after scoring 21 in Game 2 and 28 in Game 1. During the playoffs, he now has seven 20-point games, including five straight, with a 19-point game, as well.
"No moment is too big [for Tatum]," Stevens said after the game. "He's got guts. He's a competitive guy. Sometimes I think we misconstrue some of these slight guys when they come out of college for not being tough but he's tough and very competitive."
Forget the players, though.
Much of the talk after Game 3 was about Stevens, and his "genius" play call coming out of a time out toward the end of the overtime period, which resulted in Horford's layup.
"Sometimes he draws stuff up, and I look at it, I'm like [confused]," Horford said after the game. "But Marcus delivered it, great pass. I missed some shots that I normally make there, but I made that one, so it was good."