The NBA playoffs are all about adjustments, and with his team trailing three-games-to-none, Brett Brown finally made some.
The Philadelphia 76ers head coach inserted guard T.J. McConnell into the starting lineup in place of the struggling Robert Covington. Brown also had his team focus on pounding the ball inside and hammering the offensive glass.
The strategy paid off in the Sixers’ 103-92 Game 4 win, most notably in the performance of McConnell (19 points, seven rebounds and five assists) and Dario Saric (25 points, eight rebounds). Saric had been rendered ineffective in the first three games as he struggled to get good looks on the perimeter against Jayson Tatum. But in Game 4, Brown chose to give the ball to the 24-year-old on the block against the smaller Tatum, allowing Saric to get high-percentage looks close to the rim.
The insertion of McConnell also ramped of Philly’s defense. The Sixers forced 15 turnovers Monday, scoring 16 points off the takeaways and flustering the C’s offense during a third-quarter run that gave Philly a double-digit lead.
Those 15 turnovers were Boston’s most this series, and the 52-38 edge for Philly in the paint was by far the biggest margin in the series. The 76ers averaged just over five points per game more than the Celtics in the paint over the first three games.
Brad Stevens knows Boston must be better in those areas going forward.
“I mean, obviously, what did we end up with? 15 turnovers,” Stevens said after the game, via NBATV. “The offensive rebounds were enormous for them, just the extra possessions. Neither team shot it great, but they were really good tonight.”
Boston has lost the points in the paint and offensive rebounding battles in all four games so far in the series, and the turnover numbers continue to creep up with each passing game. The Celtics are sure to get better games out of Terry Rozier and Al Horford in Game 5 in Boston, but if they don’t clean up the grit areas they might be headed back to Philadelphia for a Game 6.
Here are more notes from Celtics-Sixers Game 4:
— Celtics guard Shane Larkin left the game in the second quarter after injuring his left shoulder. He will get imaging Tuesday to determine the severity of the injury.
— The Sixers have not lost an elimination game to the Celtics in Philadelphia since April 4, 1969. They are 6-0 in that span.
— While a lot of the talk will surround the officiating after Game 4, the Celtics were called for only five more fouls and shot the same amount of free throws as the 76ers. Of course, a majority of the C’s free throws came during the fourth quarter when they were already trailing by double digits.
— Tatum became the first Celtic to record six straight 20-plus point playoff games since Paul Pierce did so in 2009. The Celtics rookie forward joined David Robinson, Billy Knight and Donovan Mitchell as the only NBA rookies to achieve the feat since 1975. Mitchell tallied 20 or more in seven straight games earlier this postseason.
Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images