PHILADELPHIA – Despite dropping Game 4 Monday night, the Celtics return home feeling good about the trip as a whole.
That’s because, despite the loss, the Celtics still have a firm grip on this series up 3-1 in the series rather than it being tied at two games apiece.
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“We knew what kind of game this was going to be coming into this game,” said Marcus Smart. “We knew that they weren’t going to let us sweep them. We knew we were going to have to battle; we knew it. We did our job. We got one. Now, it’s back to the crib!”
Boston will have a second crack at closing this series out on Wednesday night and moving on to the Eastern Conference finals for the second consecutive season to face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There was no mistaking the disappointment among the Celtics, well aware that a golden opportunity to get a couple more days of rest before the next series was there for the taking.
But really, has anything come easily to this team this season?
That said, it only makes sense and keeps true to the season narrative that the path towards basketball success is anything but a smooth one for Brad Stevens and his players.
“Things didn't go our way this game and we are not going to complain. We're not going to make excuses for it,” said Jaylen Brown. “It was unfortunate, but we are going to come out Game 5 and do what we have to do.”
And that is...
“Finish the game,” Brown said. “Finish the game. Get it done. Advance and do what we were supposed to do.”
Here are five takeaways from the 103-92 Game 4 loss to the 76ers:
He had been the plus/minus darling of the Sixers through the first three games, so it made a lot of sense to get him on the floor with their season on the line. McConnell delivered a career-high 19 points, but don’t expect the Celtics to overreact to his strong Game 4 performance. He’ll likely get a little more attention from the Celtics defenders – namely Smart – in Game 5.
Brad Stevens did his part to not complain about the officiating in Game 4, but there’s no getting around its impact on the game. Jayson Tatum wasn’t nearly as aggressive defensively as we’ve seen in the past and that had a lot to do with trying to avoid fouling out. In the second quarter alone, there were 13 foul calls made by the officials – 12 against the Celtics. I hate the whole referees-are-trying-to-cheat-us mentality that permeates among all fan bases. Still, at a minimum, the Celtics have to do a better job at defending without fouling so much.
THE LEGEND OF TATUM
With each playoff game, Tatum’s assault on the Celtics rookie record book continues. He drained a late 3-pointer that left his scoring line at 20 points. He has now scored at least 20 in six consecutive playoff games, extending his franchise record.
The Celtics have been one of the more unflappable teams in the NBA, but Boston lost more than a game on Monday. For the first time in a long time, they unraveled before our very eyes. There was Tatum and the frequent shoulder shrugs after driving to the basket, getting knocked to the ground and no call was made. Both Brown and Stevens were whistled for technical fouls after voicing their disagreement with some of the calls made.
Joel Embiid and Terry Rozier had an on-the-floor run-in that, at a minimum, will result in fans at the TD Garden booing Embiid every time he touches the ball in Game 5. Embiid also exchanged some verbal barbs with Marcus Morris, who reminded Embiid on more than one occasion that, at that time, Boston had a 3-0 series lead.
Morris acknowledged he was surprised to hear Embiid chirping considering where the series stood at the time they were jawing with one another.
“That’s reality,” Morris said when asked about flashing the 3-0 sign with his fingers to Embiid. “It’s hard. I know I wouldn’t say a damn word if I was down 3-1 but hey, we all different. It is what it is.”
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