Trust the Progress: Celtics end 76ers’ season in epic Game 5

Greg M. Cooper - USA Today

Jayson Tatum found himself free underneath the basket, received a rifle pass from Marcus Smart and layed the ball in for the go-ahead bucket.

It was a microcosm of the entire series.

Brett Brown never had an answer for defending the young talented wings Jaylen Brown and Tatum of the Boston Celtics and now the Philadelphia 76ers are going home.

Tatum’s go-ahead layup with 22.5 seconds left lifted the Celtics to a 114-112 series-clinching victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Tatum led the Celtics with 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting, while Brown added 24 on 10-of-13 efficiency from the floor. Boston once again took advantage of Philadelphia’s switching defense to create mismatches with its young wings. At one point in the second quarter, Brown attempted to adjust by defending Tatum with a nine-inch smaller T.J. McConnell and the end result didn’t go in the Sixers’ favor. The likes of J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli had their struggles matching up with Tatum and Brown on switches all series.

Joel Embiid posted 27 points and 12 rebounds, while a much more aggressive Ben Simmons recorded 18 points, eight boards and six assists for the Sixers.

The Sixers showed a lot of grit, resilience and mental toughness, willing themselves back from a 12-point, third-quarter deficit. Seventeen turnovers and some inopportune misses at the foul line came back to bite them.

Their Game 5 performance would’ve been good enough to potentially win Games 1 or 2 in Beantown, but Boston matched the Sixers with a great performance of its own. Blowing a 22-point lead in Game 2 and committing costly turnovers late in Game 3 ultimately came back to haunt Philly.

Where do the Sixers go from here? Embiid said it’s still about trusting the process.

The Process is never going to end. This is a process to get to the playoffs, we did it. This was a process to get to the conference finals, we didn’t. Next year, that’s our goal.

T.J. McConnell got the start once again for Robert Covington and provided the spark for Philadelphia once more, netting seven of his nine points in the opening frame. He also did a stellar job on Terry Rozier again.

a 19-6 run to end the second quarter staked Boston to a 61-52 halftime lead, but the Sixers responded with a 15-5 push to close the third and get within 83-82 heading into the fourth. Redick knocked down a wild 3-pointer along the right wing to cap the surge.

Philadelphia found itself up 107-103 with 2:01 to play after Simmons drove in for a layup, but Redick missed a wide-open triple less than a minute later which would’ve put it up five. Marcus Smart then tipped in his own miss to tie the game at 109-109, which came a possession prior to Tatum’s go-ahead basket.

Embiid had a chance to tie the game at the other end, but couldn’t finish inside on Aron Baynes. He felt like he was fouled.

I thought they (refs) were great tonight. But I thought there was something on that last play. But you can’t really do anything about it.

Rozier sunk a pair of foul shots to put Boston up four, 113-109, and Redick nailed a three with 3.8 ticks to go. Marcus Smart split a pair from the line before Simmons’ desperation inbounds heave was stolen by Smart to seal the victory and series for Boston.

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