History says the Sixers are likely done and it’s inevitable the Celtics will advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
Boston is 36-0 all time when leading a best-of-seven series 2-0 while the 76ers are 0-11 on the other end of that scenario.
But, if there’s a team that can overcome those historical odds, this Sixers team is the one. The wide majority never saw 52 wins coming, the level of maturity from Ben Simmons, or the fairly solid durability Joel Embiid displayed all season.
The 76ers are a much better home team than on the road, and Boston is winless away from TD Garden in these playoffs with three losses coming in Milwaukee.
Since the 76ers are clearly capable of winning the next two and setting up a ridiculously important Game 5 Wednesday in Boston, it’s why Game 2’s loss was very avoidable, to the fault of critical decisions by head coach Brett Brown.
When the Celtics were going on their second quarter surge, Brown refused to call a timeout to cool things off.
Even though Philadelphia would lose a precious timeout if Brown used it when everything was unraveling, it was the obvious move to make, especially because the Sixers are young and inexperienced.
“I trust my players that they have shown that they can hold onto stuff,” Brown said. “That they know how to stay organized and they’ve shown that over the past third of the season.”
The fifth year head coach needed to stay in the moment, put the past behind him and realize at that time, there was no organization and Boston, home territory, was rolling, wiping away a commanding 22-point lead.
Same goes for 5:29 left in the fourth quarter, somehow up by two points, and a struggling Simmons is put back in the game for extremely effective T.J. McConnell after sitting the last 10:10 of game time on the bench.
With McConnell on the floor in the fourth, the Sixers outscored the Celtics 18-12. With Simmons in, the advantage went to Boston 17-10. Simmson was a game low minus-26 for the night. McConnell was a team high plus-16.
“I’m coming back to Ben Simmons,” Brown insisted. “I’m coming back to Ben. He’s had a hell of a year. I think he’s the Rookie of the Year. I think he’s going to have to learn how to play in these environments and I’m going back with Ben Simmons.”
Simmons will get plenty of opportunities to learn. Regardless of last night’s outcome on an unusually off evening for Simmons, there were guaranteed to be two more playoff games left for the Sixers. If they’re lucky enough to rally and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals, there will be even more in high pressure situations on the road.
Game 2 of an Eastern Conference Semifinals series many expect you to win on your path to the NBA Finals isn’t a teaching moment, especially when your team gave up a 22-point lead.
In the end, Brown is still certainly a candidate for Coach of the Year. He’s done a remarkable job this season and his previous four despite the record. Simmons is human. He just showed it at the most inconvenient time possible, which is no excuse, but he will bounce back.
If Game 2 was about learning and educating inexperienced talents on the 76ers, then it should be a lesson of what not to do going forward in heavily important situations.
Before I forget …
I don’t think Joel Embiid was talking about fans when he said, “where was everybody three or four years ago,” when asked about positive hype. It’s very possible he was, but the word “fan” was never used. Yet, for some reason ESPN posted a video labeled, “Embiid ‘holds grudges’ on fair-weather fans.” Slam Magazine uses the adjective “bandwagon.”
“Where was everybody three or four years ago?” https://t.co/dz8BHg35Re
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) May 3, 2018
NESN published a similar headline as well.
— NESN (@NESN) May 3, 2018
Look, I’ll be the first one to pounce on a sports figure who takes a jab at fans. However, clarification is certainly needed in this instance.
Former Eagles Kicker David Akers proved once again why Philadelphia owns Dallas. His troll of Cowboys fans before announcing the selection of Dallas Goedert, how fitting, might not have reached the level of Jason Kelce’s parade speech, but nothing will. Akers was a very close second place and nailed it with his energy, passion and disdain for the Cowboys star.
— NFL (@NFL) April 28, 2018
Bravo, Dave. You once again nailed another 50-plus yarder.
Heading into their weekend series at the Nationals, Phillies first baseman Carlos Santana is hitting .151 with a .295 on base percentage. We’re being told it’s a combination of bad luck and Santana is typically a slow starter. Meantime, 24-year-old talented outfielder Nick Williams continues to sit on the bench. I guess Gabe Kapler finding sufficient playing time for everyone isn’t as easy as it sounds. None the less, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury, Kapler’s response to whether Williams should head to Triple-A for regular playing time included, “There is development happening.” Huh? Ok. The latest “Kaplerism” aside, seems like Matt Klentak’s acquisition of Santana, when Rhys Hoskins was already a more than capable first baseman, is proving to cost a promising young outfielder playing time. If Santana was producing, this wouldn’t be a problem. But, he isn’t.
With negativity comes positivity and there’s more of it in Philadelphia sports now than ever before. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how enjoyable Aaron Nola is to watch. After struggling early against the Marlins in his latest outing, the 24-year-old right hander adjusted and threw 7 1/3 scoreless. It’s official, the kid is an ace.
At the same time, Vince Velasquez remains inconsistent. It’s puzzling why the Phillies continue to think Velasquez is starter material. Just about everyone else believes he’s more suited for the bullpen with his electric stuff, but tendency to be uneconomical with his pitches. Let’s take a moment to be honest, though. The Ken Giles trade hasn’t worked out for the Phils. Regardless is Tom Eshelman turns out to be helpful to the Phillies, which he may, the return for Giles was Brett Oberholtzer, Mark Appel, Eshelman and Velasquez. Giles is a young, talented, sometimes overly emotional closer who the Phils didn’t need to flip.
— Gary Phillips (@GaryHPhillips) May 2, 2018