Rookie Jayson Tatum scored the go-ahead layup with 22 seconds remaining in the fourth as the Boston Celtics punched their ticket to the NBA Eastern Conference finals with a 114-112 win over Philadelphia. "Like at the end of the game he [Simmons] came up to me, showed me his hands, and he was like 'there's going to be a lot of rings'".
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Celtics are the first team in National Basketball Association history to reach the conference finals in back-to-back seasons, while returning only four players from one year to the next (Smart, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Terry Rozier).
The 76ers won the game, 103-92, but still trail 3-1 in the series.
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It remains to be seen if Brown sticks with McConnell in the starting lineup for Game 5 and, if so, how the Celtics adjust. They actually opened as favorites before the betting line moved, and they had been favored in each of the previous four games.
The Sixers are a good team that has vastly under-performed in the second round, but calling for Brett Brown's job simply isn't the correct reaction.
It'd be fair to say that Philadelphia has more talent, especially since neither Kyrie Irving nor Gordon Hayward is active.
While there's plenty of positives to take from a 52-win season, which saw them finish with the third seed, Simmons expressed a sense of unfinished business.
Jayson Tatum scored 25 points, Brown had 24 and Terry Rozier scored 17, sinking a pair of free throws to make it a four-point game with 9.8 seconds left after forcing Joel Embiid's turnover.
After almost averaging a triple-double against Miami, Simmons has looked every bit like a rookie at times this round.
In a testament to Brad Stevens' coaching acumen, the Celtics are back in the East finals despite just one overlapping starter (Al Horford) from last postseason to this playoff run.
Saric and Joel Embiid shared game-high scoring honors, with 27 apiece. The center has been a negative in the post, where he had previously dominated. Reality is infinitely more rewarding.
Boston's defense overall has been exemplary. Just about everybody in the Celtics' rotation can handle the ball, allowing them to hunt down Marco Belinelli or Dario Saric on switches an take advantage. In all other matchups he had 13 points over 50 possessions on 4-11 shooting.
Due to their young cores, Boston and Philly could meet in the playoffs for years to come.
They will also be playing at home, where they had the second-most wins in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. The tipoff for the contest is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will be televised on TNT.