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Celtics defeat Sixers 116-108: Isaiah Thomas too much to handle

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Close, but not enough: A Sixers Story

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

“If Joel Embiid was out there, things would be different.”

I’ve had that thought countless times over the past three years with the 76ers. Tonight was another instance where if some of the Sixers just had another level or one more guy, especially with the talent of Embiid, out there to help in the battle, maybe, just maybe, they pull off the upset win.

Behind Isaiah Thomas’ 33 points, the Celtics held off the Sixers and various gutsy attempts at keeping things competitive, 116-108.

I now understand why Thomas leads the league in 4th quarter points with the way the refs are quick to blow the whistle for the slightest bit of contact against the (allegedly) 5’9” Thomas. I thought James Harden was the only dude who got away with calls like this. Between that and Marcus Smart mauling Nik Stauskas in the second half as if he was a Texas Tech fan, these refs were home cooking just as much as Tommy Heinsohn was behind the mic for the Celtics broadcast.

There were, however, some bright spots for the Sixers:

With the Sixers struggling to buy a basket in the first half, Robert “Rock” Covington reverted to his 2014 form offensively, making all four of his three-points attempts on the way to 18 points before the break. Add in his three steals and more deflections to his league-leading total and the Sixers are left with one of Covington’s finest all-around games this season.

Dario Saric rolled off the bench with 20 points and 11 rebounds, the fifth-straight game he’s scored at least 18, all in a reserve role. He’s been an offensive fulcrum all month with Joel Embiid sidelined. With the trade deadline approaching and Ersan Ilyasova’s status as an impending free agent, when does Saric become the team’s starting power forward? In theory, it doesn’t matter as long as he’s getting sizable minutes, just look at him playing the entire 4th quarter both tonight and Wednesday against the Hornets.

I think it does matter to players though. He’s a competitive guy and he’s been busting his ass the last two weeks. He deserves a start as one of the future building blocks of this franchise. I get showcasing Ilyasova, but if he isn’t dealt next week and is still starting over Saric, I don’t ultimately see that as the right move. I wouldn’t count out Brett Brown instilling some Manu Ginobili-esque game plan for Saric though where he’s not starting games here longterm, but he’s finishing them.

But will he ever come over? Who knows with this guy anymore.