Wed, May 09, 2018 - Page 16 News List

T.J. McConnell helps the 76ers stave off elimination

AP, PHILADELPHIA

T.J. McConnell of the Philadelphia 76ers, center, goes to the basket against the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of their NBA playoff series in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Monday.

Photo: AP

The chants for “T.J.” grew louder each time T.J. McConnell darted through the lane for an easy basket or buried a three-pointer to build an insurmountable lead for the 76ers.

He wore a sheepish look as teammates rubbed his head on the bench in appreciation, the big moment due on an undrafted guard who morphed into a surprise post-season savior.

McConnell on Monday turned an eye-popping start into the save of the season and Dario Saric scored 25 points to help Philadelphia stave off elimination in a 103-92 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 4.

“If I saw a lane, I took it. If I had an open shot, I would try and take it,” McConnell said.

Easy enough.

Yet the Sixers still face daunting odds headed into Game 5 and trailing 3-1 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals: No NBA team has ever won a series from 3-0 down.

McConnell had a career-high 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists in only his second start of the season and meshed well with Ben Simmons.

The crowd chanted his initials each time he touched the ball in the fourth quarter and he proved why he has been so valuable even as bigger stars have sliced his playing time.

He was just what coach Brett Brown needed in a must-win game.

“I can tell you the Philadelphia 76ers spirit is just fine,” Brown said.

With NBA teams down 3-0 having lost all 129 series, the Sixers may need more than spirit to pull off this stunner.

Joel Embiid had 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Simmons had 19 points and 13 boards.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 20 points and Marcus Morris had 17.

The Sixers spent the second half in control in what could be their final home game of the season.

Embiid was still in the mix in his mask, stirring it up with any Celtic within his wingspan.

He chirped at Marcus Morris in the third and the Celtics forward flashed a “3-0” with his hands.

McConnell buried a three-pointer for a 14-point lead that would soon make that combination obsolete.

The “T.J.” chants soon echoed throughout the Wells Fargo Center.

“It was a pretty special moment,” McConnell said of the chants. “I think we have the best fans in the NBA. They’ve been here through the dark times and they’ve certainly been here on our rise.”

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