The Boston Celtics take on the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 4 of their opening round series. The Celtics hold a 3-0 lead and can sweep the series with a win today. The game is at 1 PM and airs on ABC. There is no local broadcast.
Here are a few pregame notes.
Gordon Hayward has left the bubble
Hayward suffered a Grade III sprain of his right ankle and was initially ruled out for approximately four weeks. After some initial treatment with the team inside the Orlando bubble, Hayward has left.
“He left Friday,” Brad Stevens said before the game. “The plan of attack from what I’ve been told is when he’s closing in on being ready to play, he’ll be back.
The next steps of his rehab will presumably take place in Indiana, where his wife and children are in preparation for the birth of his fourth child, and first son.
This has been a particularly tough injury for Hayward, who was playing his best basketball inside the bubble. The timing and severity of the injury was particularly hard for Hayward.
“It’s definitely gutting. It sucks. There’s nothing else to say about that,” Hayward said earlier in the week. “It’s definitely frustrating. It doesn’t feel great at the moment. Just try to get better as soon as I can.”
Philly has some fight left
“I’m proud of our fight the last game,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said before the game. “The defense that we played was good enough. I think the offensive shot selection and shots that we got was good enough. I think our rebounding was good enough. I think getting to the free throw line the way that we did was good enough.”
He’s not wrong, but the Sixers also need to capitalize on the opportunities they created. The shot selection was good enough, but they shot 29.5% from the field. The free throw attempts were good enough, but when it came down to crunch time, Joel Embiid seemed more concerned with hunting fouls than attacking the basket. The rebounding was good enough, but they only managed 20 points in the paint when grabbing 20 offensive rebounds.
Tobias Harris had 8 offensive rebounds but just 6 made baskets. Considering that he’s one of Philadelphia’s main scoring threats, that number almost feels impossible. Harris should be making 6 baskets no matter what, and then tacking on close to 8 more on those offensive rebounds.
“You can drive yourself crazy playing the ‘what if’ game,” Brett Brown said. “You can do it with Ben Simmons. You can do with ‘I wish we didn’t have the turnover at the end of Game 3.’ You can do it a bunch of ways.”
The Sixers defended Boston well, but Game 3 simple came down to one team capitalizing on the other’s mistakes just a little bit more. Stevens feels the fragility of each game, and understands that a few different bounces or decisions could have changed the course of this series.
“It’s hard to win. This series could easily be 2-1, Philadelphia, and that what every series I’ve ever been in is,” he said. “You just play as well as you can, you have an opportunity today to play again, and that’s that.”
Philly misses home
Perhaps the biggest question coming into the Orlando bubble for the Sixers was how they’d react to playing in a neutral environment. They had the NBA’s best home record and one of the worst road records, but this was neither. This is just a gym that, aside from some graphics on the digital boards and inflection in the public address announcer’s voice, is neutral.
“I think not being at the Wells Fargo Center hurts us. It’s not even close. And to get on a plane and fly to Logan Airport, the punishment of flying back (versus) we’re all sort of here in Orlando, it’s not even close. It’s not even close.”
Stevens has been saying all along that the team that finds its joy in this bubble has an advantage. If any one thing is clear about the Sixers, it’s that they are relatively joyless. Brown, who seems to be on his way out in Philly, is simply trying to hang on and find something, somewhere, that can light a fire in his guys.
“Bottom line, you got a game today. How can I best coach this game? How can I help my players win?” Brown said. “Though that sort of approach, I feel far more well prepared and more focused on what I need to do.”
Jayson Tatum is just getting started
Foul trouble kept Tatum from getting into any kind of groove on Friday night, but that didn’t keep from competing on the defensive end. He finished nigh with 4 blocked shots.
“He’s been very good – plays both ends, competes, can read different coverages, just has a great way about him, isn’t ever satisfied, always wants to get better and wants to grow,” Stevens said. “Both he and Jaylen (Brown) are that way and that’s been a real positive for both of them.”
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