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Sixers defeat *Finals-contending Boston Celtics 105-99

*Eastern Conference Semi-

NBA: Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers
RoCo celebration
John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

With less than a month left to go in what undoubtedly began as the Sixers’ most exciting season since 2011-12 (god, that’s depressing) but has since ventured almost completely off the rails, most fans are at the point where valuable ping pong balls in the Draft Lottery are more appealing than meaningless March wins. But when the Celtics come to town, that calculus changes a bit.

For anyone who grew up in Philadelphia during the 1980s, and even for those who have only had to suffer through the most-recent decade of Boston sports success, they know that the only thing more satisfying in sports than a Sixers win is a Celtics loss. Boston fans were among the loudest, and unsurprisingly most obnoxious, crusaders against the Sixers’ rebuilding process, and it should bring joy to all your hearts to see them lose to a team that started T.J. McConnell, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Jahlil Okafor tonight.

Dario Saric was once against fantastic for Philadelphia, finishing with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals, with just one turnover. He did all that while making half of his 20 field goals and half of his four three-point attempts. Since being inserted into the starting lineup after an All-Star Break that saw veteran Ersan Ilyasova get shipped to Atlanta, Saric has averaged 19.6 points (46.4 FG%, 30.6 3P%, 76.4 FT%), 8.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in 13 games playing 33.2 minutes per.

Richaun Holmes played a major role in the win as well. After coming off the bench to start the game, he was thrust into the starting unit after halftime because of knee soreness experienced by Jahlil Okafor early in the game. In 29 minutes, he dropped a Nerlens-like eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, seven boards, five assists, four blocks, and a pair of steals. He, Nik Stauskas (nine points, six rebounds, four assists), and Sergio Rodriguez (nine points and seven assists) were part of a second unit that propelled Philadelphia down the stretch.

The Celtics were without Isaiah Thomas, who’s missed Boston’s last two games due to a bone bruise in his right knee. In his absence, Al Horford led five Celtics who finished in double figures in scoring, finishing with 27 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Jaylen Brown, who has recently been included in Rookie of the Year talks (if that talk is happening at The Pour House on Boylston Street), finished with two points and two boards in 16 minutes. He did, however, jump very high on two occasions, a contribution that unfairly is not represented on the scoring sheet.

Some random thoughts

  • At what point do we have to assume Dario Saric starts next season, no matter the status of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid?
  • Is Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot good or is this another February-April Sixers mirage?
  • The Sixers are exactly one game behind the Sacramento Kings for #6 in the lottery standings. Sacramento plays the Spurs tonight, and if they were to lose it would be 0.5 games back…
  • Has Dario Saric basically cemented himself as the Rookie of the Year?
  • Somehow the Sixers are going to win, like, 28 games this season despite missing Embiid for 2/3 of the season and Simmons and Bayless the whole year. Brett Brown!

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