Brett Brown met with his players Sunday to face the reality of the task at hand. The 76ers coach said it was a collaborative meeting. He opted not to share the particulars with the reporter.
But then again, it’s easy to imagine what was said.
The Sixers trail three games to none to the Boston Celtics, and no team down 0-3 in NBA playoffs history has ever rallied to win a seven-game series.
Game 4 is Monday at 6 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.
“You remind them really of what we’ve done this year,” Brown said of the meeting. “You remind them of how close Game 2 was. If we pull Marco [Belinelli] back six inches, we have a walk-off three in Game 3 and everybody is seeing the world a little differently today. But the spirit of the room, the spirit of the team was great.”
Joel Embiid walked away from the meeting and Sunday’s practice thinking the Sixers can become the first team to rally from a 0-3 deficit to win a series.
“We’re OK,” he said. “We’re good. We know what we’ve got to do …You’ve just got to take it one day at a time, one game at a time and one quarter at a time, and we are going to be fine.”
But should the Sixers make late-game miscues as they did in Saturday’s 101-98 overtime loss, the series might not reach a fifth game.
Despite losing the first two games by 16 and five points, the Sixers were favored to win Game 3 by 9 ½ points. But miscues blocked their way to victory.
The biggest was an inbounds pass following a timeout with 5.5 seconds left in overtime.
Al Horford had just scored off an inbounds play in which he posted up Robert Covington on a switch to give the Celtics a 99-98 lead. The Sixers called a timeout to plan to regain the lead.
But Ben Simmons’ inbounds pass to Embiid misfired as Horford reached in front of Embiid, deflected the pass and raced down the court. Horford was fouled with 3.0 seconds remaining and then made both free throws to give Boston a 101-98 cushion.
Belinelli misfired on a three-pointer right before the buzzer and the Celtics escaped with the win.
But that turnover was just one of many miscues by the Sixers down the stretch.
“No one’s down,” said Covington, who’s averaging 8.7 points on 27.5 percent shooting (8-for-29) this series after going 0-for-8 from the field on Saturday. “No one’s defeated. That’s a great sign of maturity as a team.
“We still believe that we can do it.”
The Sixers will tell you they especially want to win on Monday for competitive pride. No one wants their season to end by being swept in the postseason.
They’ve exceeded even their own expectations this season. The Sixers defeated the Miami Heat in five games in the opening round, which followed 16 straight regular-season wins to end the season at 52-30. The streak set the league mark for consecutive victories to end a season.
The Sixers aren’t concerned that being swept will take away from the season’s accomplishments.
“We don’t want to get swept because we don’t want to get swept.” Brown said. “I’ve said, and I stand by this, we do have more to give. We stumbled on an incredibly hard matchup for us, there’s no doubt about that.
“But [not wanting to get swept is] borne out of competitiveness.”