The Tough Out Is Out
Going into the NBA playoffs, that was the word on the Philadelphia 76ers. Young, brash, they were not going to be easy to beat.
They certainly weren’t on Wednesday night. But the Boston Celtics prevailed 114-112 at home and put the 76ers away in five games after taking a 3-0 lead in this NBA second-round series.
The tough out may in fact be the Celtics, who will meet the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals for the second consecutive year. The Cavs beat the Celtics in five in 2017, setting off a huge roster overhaul in Boston that, oddly, involved Cleveland. More about that later.
First, the clincher against the 76ers. Boston’s mix of old and young again paid off, as rookie Jason Tatum scored 25 points, second-year guard Jalen Tatum got 24 and the venerable Al Horford had 15. Philadelphia’s mini-surges kept giving them the lead in the final four minutes and Boston just kept responding.
The Celtics led 113-109 with 4.7 seconds left, when Philly’s J.J. Redick hit one from beyond the 3-point arc. The Sixers fouled Marcus Smart with 2.4 seconds left and he missed the first free throw. In attempting to miss the second so that the clock would run, Smart accidentally hit it. But the Sixers had no time to make a game-saving play.
Now, the trade. Remember that the Celtics swapped guard Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving in the offseason, altering both teams. And that Thomas, still suffering from last year’s hip injury and unhappy, wound up getting traded again. And that Irving, who wearied of LeBron James’ long shadow and forced that trade, is hurt and out.
Only four of last year’s players from that series remain with the Celtics. Now the Celtics take on the Cavs again – as the NBA’s tough out.
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