Looks can be deceiving.
If you watched Saturday’s Sixers-Celtics Game 3 clash at the Wells Fargo Center, there were certainly moments when it seemed like the home team had regained its mojo.
The Sixers had highlight-reel dunks (you’ve all seen that monster Joel Embiid smash over Aron Baynes by now) and some of those acrobatic three-pointers. Heck, even the confetti cannon went off as is customary after Sixers’ wins.
“Well, initially because you think you've just won the game,” head coach Brett Brown said of his feelings after seeing the confetti fly following Marco Belinell’s buzzer-beater to end regulation.
But in the end, it was all just a mirage as the Sixers suffered a gut-wrenching 101-98 loss to the Boston Celtics to fall down 3-0 in their second-round series (see observations).
“Everybody was happy, but at the end of the day we lost the game, so who cares?” Belinelli said.
It wasn’t just the fact the Sixers were handed another defeat by their storied rival, but it was how this one went down.
Every time the Sixers looked like they might gain the upper hand in the back-and-forth affair, a closer glance at the box score revealed it was never meant to be on this night.
For the second straight game, a starter was limited to a single point and failed to make a field goal (Robert Covington was 0 for 8). That mirrored the struggles of the entire team as the Sixers shot just 39.2 percent overall.
There were more maddening late-game turnovers that led to Boston baskets, including JJ Redick’s errant pass in the final seconds of regulation and Ben Simmons’ giveaway near the end of the overtime. In all, the Sixers committed five of their 15 turnovers in the fourth quarter and OT with each one doing more damage than the last.
“There were some key turnovers at the end, we all know what they are, hurt us,” Brown said. “The Celtics’ defense was excellent and on two plays that really do stand out, you wish you had those back.”
“We made mistakes — it doesn't matter how old we are, and it doesn't matter that we've never been in this position,” Embiid said. “You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They competed, they showed up when it was the time to show up, and we didn’t.”
Somehow still the Sixers seemed like they may literally snatch a victory away and climb back into the series. However, they rushed just to hand control back to the C’s.
That was when the Sixers held a one-point lead with 18.0 ticks left in overtime and Simmons grabbed an offensive rebound. Instead of pulling the ball back out and milking the clock, he took a quick shot and missed.
The Celtics grabbed the board and scored on an Al Horford layup following a timeout to put them ahead for good.
While Simmons’ teammates supported his decision to go for the quick points at the rim, Brown wasn’t so sure.
“I think if it was a point-blank dunk, you probably would take that, but he didn't do it,” the coach said. “It's true he makes that all the time in practice. There's  seconds left. If we had it again, you probably bring it right back out and let them chase you and follow you and chew up the clock.”
Either way, when the smoke cleared (or confetti in this case), the Sixers were staring elimination right in the face for the first time this postseason.
“It sucked to lose this way,” Embiid said. “I felt like we had control of the whole game, especially when we made that run at the end of the first half. We felt really good, but we made a couple mistakes at the end, and it wasn't good on our part.”