A second-half turnaround saw the Celtics storm back into the game, but they ultimately fell in overtime as a result of some shoddy late-game execution — a tale as old as the regular season.
And while they ultimately overcame the first punch that Philadelphia threw at them, it just wasn’t enough.
“They came out with a tremendous fight,” said Jaylen Brown. “They set the tone for how the game was gonna be officiated, and it worked. The tougher team sets the rules, and tonight, that was them. They came out, they had a level of physicality, and it took us a while to match it.”
The 76ers were up by as many as 16 points, and it took the Celtics until midway through the fourth quarter to finally get over the hump.
James Harden’s and Joel Embiid’s aggressiveness overwhelmed Boston and was only matched by a fourth-quarter flurry that saw the Celtics lock in on both ends.
Overtime ended with a defensive breakdown and a failure to execute on offense, but Boston is moving forward with an upbeat mentality.
“I don’t look at this as a deflation for us,” said Marcus Smart. “Obviously, we got to learn from our mistakes, clean up a couple of things, and just bring that same intensity.”
Al Horford echoed that feeling, stating that he’s “pretty encouraged” after the fight Boston showed to get back into the game. The series is tied 2-2, but as the Celtics head back to TD Garden, spirits are high.
Rather than putting their heads down and sulking, the Celtics are choosing to remain positive, even when a couple of Game 4 tweaks could have had them up 3-1.
“We still got an opportunity to come out on our home floor and play basketball,” Brown said. “And that’s what it comes down to. The slightest details can cost you a game, and the slightest details can help you win a game. And we got to make sure that we’re the team that comes out on top.”
In the fourth quarter of Game 4, the Celtics put on a show. Jayson Tatum picked up the pace, Al Horford locked down Embiid in the post, and they mounted a massive comeback. Boston even had a chance to win the game, but Smart’s shot attempt didn’t fall.
It’s easy to point out the letdowns at the end of the game — and there were plenty — but living in the past won’t get the Celtics anywhere.
Instead, Boston hopes to learn from Game 4 and respond on Tuesday night.
“We had that game in our grasp,” said Brown. “Rebounds, defensive breakdowns—there were a lot of things that went into why we didn’t come out on top. But we’ll watch it and get ready for the next one.”