BOSTON — With 6:42 remaining in the second quarter of Thursday’s game at TD Garden, the Celtics trailed the Philadelphia 76ers 48-26.
Then everything changed.
The Celtics erased Philly’s 22-point deficit, eventually emerging with a 108-103 victory in Game 2 of their second-round NBA playoffs series. To some extent, statistics and words can paint an accurate picture of the come-from-behind win, which marked the Celtics’ largest playoff comeback since Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
(Oh, and the Celtics are just the third team in the last 10 years to crawl out of a 22-point hole and pick up a win in the playoffs.)
But, in all honesty, only sights and sounds can do the comeback justice.
Let’s pick it up with 5:22 remaining in the second quarter. The Celtics just made consecutive baskets to pull within 18, but then Sixers’ guard Robert Covington drains a 3-pointer to put Philly back up by 21.
At the point, you could feel the Garden crowd collectively saying “it’s just not their night.”
Fast-forward a few minutes. The Celtics have trimmed Philly’s lead to 15 with under three minutes remaining in the first half. Terry Rozier then busts out this filthy Euro step to pull the C’s even closer:
The Celtics simply were on fire from that point, finishing the half on a 25-8 run. Boston entered the locker trailing just 56-51.
The Sixers, to put it lightly, were really bad at the end of the second quarter. Don’t believe us? Let Charles Barkley put it in the simplest of terms.
One had to wonder if the Celtics possibly could carry the momentum they built at the end of the first half into the third quarter. It didn’t take long for those questions to receiver answers, however.
Cue two of Jayson Tatum’s 10 third-quarter points.
A few minutes later, Aron Baynes, of all people, drained a 3-pointer to give Boston its first lead of the night.
Al Horford kept the momentum going with a driving layup.
And then Tatum put the finishing touches on a 50-20 run with this baseline dunk to put the Celtics up by eight.
Things got a little close in the fourth quarter, but Rozier and Tatum gave Boston a cushion with a fast-break alley-oop.
And Horford sealed the deal with this drive on Embiid:
And there you have it: The undermanned Celtics, as they’ve done all season, found a way to win a game in dramatic, improbable fashion.
So, how did they do it?
“Our fans,” Rozier said after the game. “Our fans and us believing, us coming together even more in the huddle and defensively.”
“Honestly I didn’t even realize we were down 22,” Al Horford said. “I knew we were down big, but what we kept talking about was, like, we can’t get it all back at once — we just need to chip away and just go.”
The fact that Boston did this against a good Sixers team makes it even more impressive. But why couldn’t Philly stop the bleeding?
“It is hard,” Sixers forward Dario Saric said. “Maybe you can do a timeout, maybe you can make some fouls. Something. Sometimes it is hard. This is the league of the best players in the world.”
“I think the Celtics’ defensive intensity went to a higher level,” 76ers head coach Brett Brown said. ” … We give them credit. They went on a little run and then they went on another run I think at two minutes left (in the second quarter).”
At the end of the day, basketball — as we all know — is a game of runs, and sometimes momentum simply builds so much for one team that the other can’t stop it. Especially when a crowd like the one at TD Garden on Thursday is getting perilously close to breaking the sound barrier.
The Sixers, who now trail 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, will look to get momentum back on their side in Game 3 on Saturday night in Philadelphia.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiar/USA TODAY Sport Images