CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Markelle Fultz remained on the 76ers’ bench for the third consecutive game in Monday’s 117-101 Eastern Conference semifinal setback to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
Brett Brown said his decision to give T.J. McConnell the backup point guard minutes over Fultz, the first overall pick in last year’s draft, “shouldn’t shock anybody, given how we arrived and where we’ve arrived.”
Fultz played 4 minutes, 21 seconds in the first half of Game 3 of the first-round series against the Miami Heat on March 19. However, McConnell took over the point-guard duties in the second half of what was Fultz’s last playoff game. He only saw 4:38 of action — all in the first half — of the Game 2 on March 16.
All that came after Fultz played 13:57 in Game 1 of that series and saw action in the final 10 regular-season games. He missed 68 straight games for what the team labeled a right shoulder injury. However, he actually had the yips, according to multiple sources.
Because he played the entire season, the Sixers consider McConnell the better option.
Brown said there are times when they think of playing Fultz.
“To say he’s dead and buried, that’s not true,” he said. “But I got a decision to make, and I’ve made a decision.
“That doesn’t mean it’s etched in stone. It’s always something that you review and I think about. And the care for Markelle Fultz and his future is always on my mind.”
The coach, however, added that Fultz is “not dead and buried.”
Embiid to Celtics fans: ‘Keep bringing it on’
TD Garden was electric Monday night. The Boston fans were loud and taunted the Sixers, and the sellout crowd of 18,624 fans provided a huge home-court advantage for the Celtics in Game 1 of the conference semifinal.
However, Joel Embiid wasn’t fazed.
“It was OK,” the Sixers all-star center said of the crowd. “I think our fans are louder than that.”
The Boston fans, treated to green “BEAT PHILA T-shirts, showed they dislike the Sixers just as much as Philly fans dislike the Celtics. The Celtics faithful mocked “The Process” in the fourth quarter, and “Not a rookie” when Sixers rookie Ben Simmons was at the foul line. And they even heckled a few boisterous Sixers fans.
But none of this was surprising. These teams are longtime Atlantic Division rivals.
“It didn’t bother me,” Embiid said of the crowd. “But they were great. They supported their team tonight. It was good.
“I love that type of atmosphere, because it kind of elevates my game knowing that there’s a lot of fans out there that are talking trash and saying crazy stuff, too.”
Embiid finished with game highs of 31 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.
Simmons, who had 18 points, seven rebounds, six assists and seven turnovers, shrugged off the “Not a rookie” chants. He was drafted first overall in 2016, but missed the entire 2016-17 season with a broken bone in his foot. Because of that, he retained his rookie status for this season.
“I don’t care,” he said of the chants. “It doesn’t affect me at all.”
The Celtics will host Game 2 on Thursday night. Embiid wants the Boston faithful to bring more venom in that game.
“I love when people talk trash,” he said. “Keep bringing it on. We’re going to see how it goes.”