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On brink of elimination, how did the 76ers stop Boston?

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Philadelphia, PA — For three games, the second-seeded Boston Celtics looked like juggernauts, making the third-seed Philadelphia 76ers look like elementary school ballers on the floor. Philadelphia guard Ben Simmons was lost on the floor defensively, as Boston made it a point to shut him down and make the rest of the team beat them.

Well, on Monday evening, the Sixers did just that; cult hero T.J. McConnell scored 19 points, and power forward Dario Saric scored 25 to lead the Sixers to a 103-92 win over the Celtics to avoid the 4-0 sweep and another embarrassment on their home floor.

So, what did Philadelphia do right this time that spared them the broom treatment? Let’s break down three key elements.

  • PHILLY BEAT UP THE PAINT

It was clear that if Philadelphia was going to force the series to go back to Boston, they needed to dominate the interior part of the court. And dominate they did. The Sixers not only outscored Boston in the paint 52-30, but also outrebounded them on the offensive end, pulling down 16 offensive rebounds to the Celtics’ six. Saric and center Joel Embiid had four a piece. On the defensive end, both teams tied with 37 defensive rebounds, but Simmons had 12 on his own for Philly. Embiid and Simmons had 13 total rebounds apiece, setting the tone for a physical game.

  • TJ TIME…ALL THE TIME

As mentioned earlier, Sixers guard T.J. McConnell was a difference maker Monday night, making shots that needed to be made that either tied the game or put Philly square in the leader’s chair. McConnell, who started a majority of the 2016-17 season before Ben Simmons was healthy, scored a career-high 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting, five assists, and also pulled down seven rebounds. He was all over the floor Monday night, doing the small things that made head coach Brett Brown an early believer in him.

You can make the point that without McConnell’s career night that Philly’s season may have come to an abrupt end, as he was one of four Sixers who scored in double figures last night. Even with Embiid’s emphatic trash talk that always seems to get the team and the crowd going, McConnell was the main star of the night. Somebody give this man an Oscar for his performance.

  • DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE

You’re probably looking at the box score and saying, “what defense?”

Look at the bigger picture here. Boston, over the first three games of the series, had averaged nearly 109 points per game. While Boston was more efficient shooting wise (41.3 percent to Philly’s 40.4), they also were outshot by 19. On top of that, Philly kept Boston (primarily center Al Horford) from imposing his will on the offensive end, holding him to 10 points and two offensive rebounds. Overall, Boston only had six offensive rebounds, and four came from their starters. The turnovers didn’t help either, as Boston turned the ball over 15 times to Philly’s eight.

Philadelphia will have another chance to extend the series and deny Boston’s shot at a second consecutive Eastern Conference Semifinals on Wednesday night.

Chris Bullock
Chris Bullock
Before joining The Ball Out, Chris Bullock was part of SB Nation's Swish Appeal for nearly three years, covering everything women's basketball. Chris has had the honor of doing live coverage of the WNBA Finals, the NCAA Tournament, and also was given his own column, "The Triple Double". A self-described "foodaholic", Chris lives in the San Diego area with his wife and two daughters, and also hosts his own podcast, "Conscious Cravings", where he speaks about his experience as a mental health advocate.

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