Philadelphia 76ers ready to battle Boston Celtics, history

By Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange  |  May 8, 2018 at 11:37 PM
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Having survived to play at least one more game, the Philadelphia 76ers continue to battle history when they visit the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

You have likely heard this all before: No team has ever come from down 0-3 to win an NBA playoff series, with teams going 129-0 when leading 3-0.

More history? The Celtics are 36-0 all-time when taking at least a 2-0 lead in a series.

And the Sixers/Warriors/Nationals are 0-14 all-time when dropping the first two games of a series.

Oh, and the Celtics are 6-0 at home in the playoffs this season.

Still, the insertion of T.J. McConnell into the starting lineup provided a spark and the Sixers stayed alive in a convincing victory in Philadelphia Monday night.

"Got to give a lot of credit to T.J. ... He came in and he changed everything," Joel Embiid said after McConnell played 39 minutes and scored a career-high 19 points and added seven rebounds and five assists in only his second start of the season.

Philly fans chanted "T.J., T.J." for the guard, who said, "It was a pretty special moment, but I was trying to do anything I could to get us a win. I think we have the best fans in the NBA. They've been here through the dark times, and they've certainly been here on our rise. I just appreciate them, and I know we all do."

Said Celtics coach Brad Stevens: "He was great. He was a tough guy. He's a heck of a basketball player, and obviously, we didn't do a great job of defending him and his impact was tremendous."

The injury-ravaged Celtics suffered another one in the game, with Shane Larkin injuring his left shoulder running into the wall known as Embiid. Stevens said Tuesday he won't know until Wednesday's shootaround whether he'll have his backup guard.

The Celtics were sloppy as their four-game playoff winning streak came to an end.

"I mean, obviously, what did we end up with? Fifteen turnovers," Stevens said after the game. "The offensive rebounds were enormous for them, just the extra possessions. Neither team shot it great, but they were really good tonight."

Celtics guard Terry Rozier, who has emerged as a star late in the season and into the playoffs with Kyrie Irving out for the year, has become a quote machine in these playoffs.

Asked after Game 4 what he learned from the loss, Rozier, who has had verbal battles with Eric Bledsoe and Embiid in the playoffs, said, "Bleep, win the next one."

As far as Game 5, Rozier said, "I feel like we just have to come out, be aggressive and try to make them quit."

Marcus Smart, clearly playing through some pain in his surgically repaired right thumb, agreed.

"We're pitbulls. It's a dog fight and we're going straight for the neck," he said.

Regardless of how this comes out, count Stevens among those singing the praises of Brown as a coach.

"I think the part that is most difficult in this league is when you're not having success is maintaining a joy and desire to continue to work for yourself and your team," Stevens said. "I don't think anybody has done it better than Brett, and the way that he's led. You can see it in the way (the Sixers) play. You can see it in the way they played before this year.

"Obviously, with more guys available now, with Embiid and (Ben) Simmons healthy, and now all the older guys they've added, you can see the joy with which they play. Everybody quote "loves" basketball. That gets tested in an 82-game season, and if it's extended. And it really gets tested if you're not having success. That's hard. I have an unbelievable amount of admiration for Brett anyways, but the way in which he's created a culture in which they find joy is pretty special."

Boston's Jayson Tatum became the first Celtic to notch six straight 20-plus-point playoff games since Paul Pierce in 2009. He joined David Robinson, Billy Knight and Donovan Mitchell as the only NBA rookies to achieve the feat since 1975. Utah's Mitchell scored 20 or more in seven straight games earlier this postseason.

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