The Philadelphia 76ers will be returning home.
They will not, however, be playing a game six.
The Sixers season has ended after a 114-112 loss to the Boston Celtics in game five of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. The Celtics move on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game one of that series begins Sunday at 3:30 pm.
Joel Embiid and Dario Saric both had double-doubles. Embiid had 27 with 12 rebounds, and Saric also had 27 points with 10 rebounds. Ben Simmons added 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, and JJ Redick added 14 points.
Jayson Tatum continued his hot scoring in this series pacing the Celtics with 25 points. Jaylen Brown -- starting for the first time in the series -- scored 24, and Terry Rozier had 17. The Celtics had six players in double digits.
After a gritty win in game four, the Sixers went back to the well with the same starting lineup: TJ McConnell starting and Covington off the bench. Early on, that substitution was still effective as McConnell had seven points, two steals, a rebound and an assist.
The Sixers were matching the intensity of the Celtics players and their home crowd as they never trailed by more than double digits in the first half. Weathering that initial storm was vital, but the Celtics went on a 19-6 run to end the second quarter to go to the locker room at halftime with a 61-52 lead.
In the third quarter, the Celtics had 10+ leads at two different points of the quarter (66-56 with about 9:08 left and 78-67 with 4:29 left). When it was feeling like the Sixers were going to crack, the Sixers went on a 16-5 run to end the third via Embiid’s 11 in the quarter and Saric’s eight.
The fourth quarter started on the see-saw with both teams trading buckets, but Robert Covington hit a three to give the Sixers the lead at 90-88 with 9:49 left in the game. The Celtics tied it at 94 with about 7:30 to go, and then grew their lead to six with five and a half left with the score at 100-94
A driving layup by Simmons capped off a 13-3 run giving him 18 points and the Sixers the lead at 107-103 with two minutes left. The Celtics responded again with two Tatum free throws and an Al Horford dunk sandwiched around Saric’s layup to give him his 27 points. With the Sixers up 109-107, JJ Redick missed a WIDE OPEN three pointer on the wing that would’ve pushed the lead to five.
Instead, the Celtics tied it with a Marcus Smart lay-up, took the lead on another Jayson Tatum lay-up (where he was left alone under the rim, by the way), and that was all she wrote after that.
Despite that crushing, heart-wrenching loss, there is a lot to look forward to heading into this summer, but there are issues to correct. Embiid has to get into better shape as he looked gassed mid-way through the third. Simmons has to work on his finishing at the rim. Some of those looked ugly, and he wasn’t a “non-factor” in this series, but he didn’t take over like he did in the regular season or against Miami.
This season was still a success. We’ve all earned this one. Enjoy it, and know that it will only go up from here.