Put the brooms away.
The Philadelphia 76ers found themselves in a must-win situation Monday at Wells Fargo Center, as they were in danger of being swept by the Boston Celtics in their second-round NBA playoff series.
The Celtics took the first three games to bring the Sixers to the brink of elimination, but Philly responded in Game 4, pulling away in the second half to earn a 103-92 win and force a Game 5 back at TD Garden.
Sixers head coach Brett Brown elected to insert guard T.J. McConnell into the starting lineup Monday, and it paid dividends. The Arizona product tallied 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while the Sixers owned the paint to the tune of a 52-30 edge in the restricted area.
Dario Saric led the Sixers’ interior attack with 25 points, while Ben Simmons (19 points), Joel Embiid (15 points) and McConnell also scored in double figures. Jayson Tatum scored 20 to lead the C’s.
The Celtics now lead the series 3-1.
Here’s how Game 4 unfolded:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
Neither team shot well to begin the game, with the 76ers taking an early 14-7 lead thanks to Boston’s cold shooting. The roles flipped midway through the opening stanza, though, as Tatum and Jaylen Brown hit back-to-back 3s to cut the lead to one.
A Marcus Morris and-1 gave the C’s a 16-14 lead with three minutes to play, and the two teams traded baskets to end the quarter with Boston taking a 22-21 edge into the second. Philly shot 32 percent in the frame while the C’s hit on only 30 percent of their shots.
J.J. Redick led all scorers with seven points, while Brown and Tatum paced the Celtics with five points apiece.
YOU GET A FOUL, YOU GET A FOUL, YOU GET A FOUL
The second quarter wasn’t much prettier than the first. Both teams continued to struggle from the field, while the C’s wing players racked up the fouls. Boston got whistled for 11 (!) fouls in the second period, with Brown, Tatum, Morris, Marcus Smart and Semi Ojeleye all tallying three fouls in the first half.
Boston held a six-point edge halfway through the frame, but the Sixers responded with an 11-0 run that included an Embiid-Terry Rozier kerfuffle.
Embiid drilled a triple immediately following the dust-up to swell the Sixers’ lead to five, but Rozier answered with a 3-pointer of his own. An Embiid dunk to finish the half gave Philly a 47-43 lead at the break.
Philadelphia led throughout the third, as the Celtics continued to get frustrated by the number of fouls being called on them. The frustration boiled over with 3:19 left in the period when Brown was called for a foul on Ersan Ilyasova. Brown and Brad Stevens each were hit with technical fouls in the ensuing minute, giving the Sixers a five-point possession that extended their lead nine.
The 76ers’ strong play continued to end the stanza and they took a 76-65 lead into the fourth quarter. Saric led the Sixers with 16 points, while Embiid and McConnell each added 13. Tatum was Boston’s high man with 15.
ON TO GAME 5
The 76ers opened the final frame on a 10-3 run to take an 86-68 lead. Boston didn’t pack it in, though, as a Morris layup cut the lead to 12 with 7:25 to play.
Philly’s lead oscillated between 14 and 10 for most of the remainder of the period until a McConnell layup nailed the C’s coffin shut with 1:56 to play.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
Jay Smooth for two.
These two teams will meet for Game 5 on Wednesday night. Tip-off from TD Garden is to be determined.
Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images