CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have to stage an unprecedented comeback to win four straight and save their season down 3-0 against the Celtics.
The numbers are daunting — of the 129 NBA teams that have attempted that feat in a seven-game series, they all have fallen short.
The Sixers aren’t getting hung up on them, though. The focus of Sunday’s practice was making the necessary adjustments one step at a time rather than trying to overcome a giant four-game hurdle.
“We’re OK,” Joel Embiid said. “We’re good. We know what we’ve got to do. It’s never been done before. You’ve just got to take it one day at a time, one game at a time, one quarter at a time and we’re going to be fine.”
The Sixers held a collaborative discussion among the staff and players on how the team should “handle” Game 4, Brett Brown said. The team had plenty of game film to digest and mistakes to hone in on. Missed offensive opportunities and turnovers were glaring. Costly errors crept up in key moments late in the game when the Sixers, literally, threw away chances to cut the series to 2-1.
“We know that we let that get away from us,” Robert Covington said. “Everybody came in mentally locked in and everyone still believes in the locker room … No one’s down. No one’s defeated.”
Sunday was not a day of the players pointing fingers, at each other or the staff. When asked about JJ Redick’s bad pass turnover, during which neither Embiid or Ben Simmons got open, at the end of regulation that resulted in Jaylen Brown scoring a go-ahead bucket off the fastbreak, Embiid took accountability and noted a “misunderstanding” between teammates.
“We didn’t execute well,” Embiid said. “It’s not on the coaching staff. That’s a play we run all the time and we score all the time on that. So that’s on us. That’s on us for not executing.”
Brown encourages the Sixers to play with the pace and ball movement with which they’ve had success. Ersan Ilyasova could see more minutes off the bench (27 in Game 3) if Dario Saric (4 for 11 from the field in Game 3) struggles. Don’t expect the Sixers to make major overhaul changes in Game 4, though. Brown does not seem to have plans to shake up the lineup and insert Justin Anderson for defensive purposes, noting, “We’re just trying to get our best shooters on the floor.”
Breaking through the Celtics' defensive schemes is a must-do. They have strategized multiple ways to slow the Sixers’ top scoring threats, limiting their three-point options (30.3 percent in the series) as well as Simmons and Embiid from dominating.
“Boston has you thinking a lot,” Embiid said. “Sometimes they double, sometimes they dig, sometimes they let you play one-on-one, and sometimes the spacing is not right. It’s a lot of thinking. It’s just on me to figure it out.”
The Sixers, as a team, have a lot to figure out ... and they have to do it Monday.
“It’s not easy, but at the same time the series is not over,” Marco Belinelli said. “We just need to keep fighting and tomorrow hope that we’re going to play a good game.”