Celtics

Celtics lose to Sixers in Game 4, can't close out series

Celtics lose to Sixers in Game 4, can't close out series

PHILADELPHIA – The Boston Celtics have been Team composure, seemingly taking the ups and downs of every game in stride, rarely allowing it to get to them. 

But things were different on Monday against Philadelphia, a game in which a slew of calls against Boston finally rattled them – even head coach Brad Stevens who picked up a rare technical just seconds after Jaylen Brown was called for a technical foul.

It was that kind of night for the Celtics as the Sixers kept their season alive for at least one more game with a 103-92 win. 

Trailing by double digits with 1:12 to play, Stevens began to clear the bench.

Jayson Tatum recorded his sixth consecutive games with 20 or more points, as he led the Celtics with 20 points.

The Celtics return home to where they will get another shot at closing out the series on Wednesday. 

Boston had its chances to put serious pressure on the Sixers, but consistently failed to make the game-changing shot or get the clutch defensive stop when it mattered most – the fourth quarter. 

Philadelphia played with a heightened sense of urgency all game long, fueled in part by head coach Brett Brown making a last-minute lineup change by starting T.J. McConnell over a struggling Robert Covington.

McConnell had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. 

Despite the McConnell move making the Sixers a smaller team, they were indeed the aggressor most of the game. 

The Celtics were used to being the bullies in this series, but could never establish the kind of overpowering physicality we saw in Games 1-3.

Boston couldn’t get any kind of traction through the first three quarters, with tempers beginning to flare and frustration mounting.

At one point, Terry Rozier and Joel Embiid got into it and were both hit with a technical foul for their run-in.

Philadelphia was able to continue building upon its first half lead in the third quarter which ended with the Celtics trailing 76-65.

You could sense it was going to be a rougher-than-usual night for the Celtics from the game’s early moments.

Boston held a slim 22-21 lead after the first quarter of play, but all was not well for Boston. 

Shane Larkin suffered a left shoulder injury late in the quarter and was initially listed as questionable to return but did not. 

And once again, the Celtics saw the fouls rack up at an alarmingly high rate, led by Jayson Tatum who had a pair of personal fouls against him in the first five minutes of play.

The fouls continued to mount for the rest of the Celtics who were called for 16 personal fouls in the first half compared to just eight against Philadelphia which went into the half ahead 47-43.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Other than LeBron Watch, Kawhi Watch will likely be the most captivating Watch of the NBA offseason,  and there's obviously a chance the two end up in the same place. Regardless of what happens with LeBron, I've officially decided where I want Kawhi to land. 

Cleveland. 

I've got my reasons, but I'll start with why I'm not clamoring for the C's to get one of the five best players in the league. Yes, the C's can offer the best package, but I don't want them to make an offer the Spurs can't refuse. I don't want them to trade Jaylen Brown and the Sacramento pick for a flight risk. I don't want them to trade Kyrie Irving. I want them to be loaded, as they currently are, and set to add to that in the future. 

Leonard supposedly wants to be traded to the Lakers. The more well-connected basketball reporters have noted the Spurs wouldn't have any motivation to turn the Lakers into a Western Conference powerhouse, which makes sense. 

So, if it's not going to be the Lakers, make it the Cavaliers. 

This might sound ridiculous, but I want LeBron James to be a character in this Celtics group's run. One of the things that made the 2017-18 Celtics' run so exciting was that it culminated in a showdown with LeBron, the best player in the league and the centerpiece of great Celtics series past. 

I don't want the Celtics to go on runs with LeBron in a different time zone. I want battling (and beating) the best player of this generation to be part of what the Tatum Era does. If the Cavs can land Leonard, maybe that will keep James from bolting in free agency. 

They're also rumored to be inquiring about Kemba Walker's availability from Charlotte to help surround LeBron with another star.

To be fair, I wrote last week that I'm fine with LeBron going to the Lakers and even forming a super team with Kawhi and Paul George. That's because I think either that team or the Warriors would be all tuckered out by the time they got to the finals against a Celtics team that just waltzed through the East. 

That wouldn't be as fun though, especially if the Lakers kept getting eliminated by Golden State. If the Celtics have another championship run coming during the final years of LeBron's career, I want it to involve a Kyrie/LeBron matchup. I certainly want it to involve a competitive underdog, and I don't trust the 76ers for that yet. Considering they probably wouldn't be able to get much else, a team of LeBron, Kawhi and a bunch of junk still wouldn't be favored against the Celtics at full health. 

If LeBron goes somewhere West this offseason, I'd still want the Cavs to get Kawhi. Assuming Kawhi actually plays, he'd at least keep the Cavaliers a playoff team and an interesting opponent. 

Could the Cavaliers actually get Kawhi? I don't see why not. If his status as a player who can opt out after next season scares some teams away, the eighth overall pick and whatever they could get for Kevin Love would already make their offer better than whatever the Lakers would try to scrape together. Sacramento could always trump everyone by offering the second overall pick for Leonard, but that would be stupid. Then again, sometimes the Kings are stupid. 

Kawhi in Boston? Not at the likely price, and not if it means that much risk. LA? Predictable. Put Kawhi in Cleveland, keep the East exciting and give LeBron a real decision to make. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BREAKFAST POD: Jaylen and Rozier for Kawhi?

BREAKFAST POD: Jaylen and Rozier for Kawhi?

1:43 - Chris Mannix joined Gary Tanguay and Kyle Draper on Early Edition to discuss if the Celtics could trade up in the draft, and if the Celtics have any chance of acquiring Kawhi Leonard.

6:35 - Phil Perry talks about Albert Breer’s report that the Patriots talked with four teams (Lions, Titans, 49ers, Texans) about trading Rob Gronkowski. We also hear from Holley, Merloni, and DJ Bean about Tom Brady commenting “cuarenta y cinco” in response to an Instagram post about when he’ll retire.

10:34 - Lou Merloni and Chris Gasper debate how important it is for the Red Sox to avoid the Wild Card play-in game and win the AL East over the Yankees. 

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE