By Peter Gleason
History will record that the Sixers lost this Eastern conference semi series to the Celtics, four games to one.
However, as Harry Truman used to say:
“The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”
In this case, last night’s Celtics 114-112 victory was reminiscent of so many other tainted Boston wins over the Philly Warriors and then the Sixers dating to the Wilt and Russell days when the officials looked the other way on green transgressions.
The Celtics have advanced to face the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second straight year with that series starting Sunday in Boston at 3:30 p.m. on ABC – but only after a fraught game ended with a wild sequence that saw the Celtics overcome a deficit inside the final minute to emerge with a win to complete a 4-1 series victory.
After the Sixers took a 109-105 lead with 1:37 remaining, the Celtics capped a back-and-forth game by scoring eight straight points in a 77-second span – on an Al Horford alley-oop, a Marcus Smart putback, a Jayson Tatum layup and two free throws by Terry Rozier – to go from down four to up four with 9.8 seconds left.
Along the way, the Sixers had their chances. J.J. Redick missed a wide-open three that would’ve put Philly up by five with 1:11 remaining. Dario Saric lost the ball – on a play that could’ve been called a charge – with 37.8 seconds remaining. And Joel Embiid had two chances to score inside, on a post look and a putback, with less than 12 seconds to go before losing the ball out of bounds.
Terry Rozier than made a pair of free throws to give Boston that four-point lead with 9.8 seconds left – only for Redick to make a deep three-pointer to push Philadelphia back within one with 4.7 seconds left.
Marcus Smart than made one of two free throws – missing the first, then accidentally making the second after he tried to intentionally miss it – setting up the Sixers to make a final heave with 2.4 seconds left. But Ben Simmons tried to make a fullcourt pass that was intercepted by Smart, who appeared to travel before flinging the ball into the air as Boston’s TD Garden exploded in celebration.
Tatum led the Celtics with 25 points, while Jaylen Brown had 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting in his first game in the starting lineup since suffering a hamstring injury in Game 7 of Boston’s first round victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Embiid had 27 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four blocks for Philly, while Dario Saric had 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block.