Sixers-Celtics Game 2 observations, best and worst awards: Ben Simmons' struggles, T.J. McConnell's great game and a blown lead

Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick drives for a layup past Boston Celtics forward Al Horford during the third quarter of Game 2.
Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick drives for a layup past Boston Celtics forward Al Horford during the third quarter of Game 2.

BOSTON — Here are my main takeaways and “best” and “worst” awards from the 76ers’ 108-103 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday night at TD Garden.

Five observations

  • The Sixers squad we saw for much of the regular season resurfaced on this night. They jacked up three-pointers when they would have been better suited feeding the post. The Sixers also went away from the hot hand with the game on the line. And they lost the game after holding a 22-point second-quarter lead.
  • Ben Simmons had his worst outing of the postseason, and arguably his worst one of the entire season. The point guard had a point while only attempted four shots – all misses.  Simmons had a tough time penetrating past the player guarding him. On the occasions he did go toward the rim, the Celtics had a wall of defenders preventing him to get close to the basket.
  • The Celtics had a solid team effort in holding Simmons to one point. Al Horford guarded him for 27 possessions. North Philly’s Marcus Morris was on him 19 possessions. Here are the other Celtics that guarded him: Marcus Smart (seven possessions), Jaylen Brown (three), Greg Monroe (two),  Terry Rozier (two) and Aron Baynes (one) .
  • While Simmons was ineffective, his backup T.J. McConnell gave the Celtics major problems. He had eight points on 4-for-4 shooting to go with five assists, two steals and zero turnovers.  McConnell also graded out with a team-best plus-16, meaning the Sixers outscored the Celtics by 16 points while he was on the floor. However with Philly up 93-91, Sixers coach Brett Brown took McConnell out for Simmons at 5:29 of the game. Brown was unapologetic for his coaching decision to go with his star young player.
  • Brown was also unapologetic for not calling a timeout while the Celtics closed out the first half with a 20-5 run. The Sixers, who had a 22-point lead earlier in the second quarter, saw what at the time was a 20-point cushion shrink to five (56-51) during the run.

‘Best’ and ‘worst’ awards

  • Best performanceHorford gets this. The power forward finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and five assists while grading out with a game-best plus-21.
  • Worst performanceSimmons just looked overmatched against the Celtics. In addition to struggling to get off a shot, he turned the ball over a game-high five times.
  • Best defensive performance: You have to collectively give this to all of the players who guarded Simmons.
  • Worst statistic:  I hate to pile on Simmons, but this goes his only getting four shot attempts and missing all of them.
  • Best statistic:  This goes to the Celtics for shooting 41.7 percent (15 of 36) on three-pointers.