Sixers fall into 3-0 hole following OT loss to Celtics

Matt Slocum - AP

The Philadelphia 76ers got away with one ill-advised turnover, but not a second.

Now they find themselves in a hole that no team has ever climbed themselves out of in NBA history.

Al Horford’s go-ahead layup with 5.5 seconds left in overtime lifted the Boston Celtics to a 101-98 win and a 3-0 series stranglehold over the Sixers in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday.

With less than 10 seconds to go in regulation, J.J. Redick threw the ball away following a miscommunication with Ben Simmons, which led to a Jaylen Brown go-ahead bucket at the other end with 1.8 ticks on the clock.

Marco Belinelli, however, answered with a jumper from the right baseline to send the game into overtime.

Belinelli’s buzzer-beater was ruled as a two, but the confetti operator thought it was a three and was premature on the trigger. Confetti fell onto the floor following Belinelli’s basket and delayed the start of overtime for a few minutes.

Sixers head coach Brett Brown thought it was a 3-pointer.

Walk off 3. I thought it was. I actually left the court. You come back on and there’s confetti. You move on. It slows the game down a lot but you move on.

The Sixers scored the first five points of the extra session following a Belinelli jumper and Redick triple and Boston didn’t find itself ahead until Horford’s go-ahead basket.

Horford’s crucial field goal came after a Boston timeout when Marcus Morris lofted his inbounds pass over the outstretched arms of Robert Covington and into the hands of Horford, who went straight up and converted the layup. Then Philadelphia inexplicably turned the ball over on its ensuing possession. Joel Embiid failed to come to the basket on Simmons’ inbounds, Horford sunk a pair of free throws and Belinelli was unable to send the game into a second overtime following his desperation 3-pointer.

Simmons followed a putrid Game 2 performance when he scored a measly one point with 16 points on 8-of-14 shooting to go with eight rebounds and eight assists. Simmons was more aggressive driving the ball to the tin and saw more post touches than usual in an attempt to get him going. He also wasn’t as reluctant to shoot a jumper.

Simmons indeed played better, but he missed an uncontested dunk with five-plus minutes to in the fourth and the game tied at 81-81, then went for a putback layup with 17.2 seconds left in overtime instead of pulling the ball out and the Sixers up by a point. There was also the inbounds pass during the latter stages of overtime.

Embiid also spent more time with his back to the basket instead of parked along the perimeter, which he spent a lot of time at during Games 1 and 2. He netted 22 points to go with 19 rebounds, but was just 10-of-26 from the floor as Aron Baynes and Horford did an admiral job in defending.

That still didn’t stop Embiid from putting Baynes on a poster.

Or from putting Horford on one either.

The role players of the Sixers really struggled, with the quartet of Redick, Belinelli, Covington and Ersan Ilyasova combining to go 14-of-44 (31.8 percent). They settled for a lot of contested shots as Philadelphia’s offense was very stagnant in the halfcourt as Boston controlled the pace for a third straight game.

Boston raced out to a 17-8 lead, which took the frenetic Wells Fargo Center crowd out of the game. The Sixers might’ve taken a 20-19 edge into the second, but it wasn’t until Embiid’s stuff on Baynes that finally woke up the Philadelphia faithful. That dunk was part of a 13-0 Sixers run, which was capped on a Belinelli trey that staked them to a 50-43 cushion late in the first half.

At this point it felt like the Sixers might seize control of the contest, but Boston trimmed the gap to 51-48 heading into the break and were up 69-68 going into the fourth.

Game 4 is Monday night in Philadelphia.


You can follow Adrian Fedkiw on Twitter (@AdrianFedkiw) and e-mail him at amfedkiw@yahoo.com. Subscribe to The Bitter Birds on YouTube here. Follow Philly Influencer on Twitter (@PHL_Influencer), Facebook and Instagram.

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