BOSTON — One more victory.
That’s all the Boston Celtics need to clinch their second straight trip to Eastern Conference final, where they would have a rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Standing in their way, however, is a confident 76ers bunch that had received a huge lift by inserting T.J. McConnell into the starting lineup in Game 4 en route to winning, 103-92. Game 5 of the conference semifinal is 8 p.m. Wednesday at TD Garden.
But back on the road, in what is sure to be a rowdy arena, can the Sixers find a way to send things back to the Wells Fargo Center for Game 6?
Philly believes it can do more than that. It looks to become the first team in NBA history to battle back and win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-0. The confidence comes from the team’s 16-game winning streak to conclude the regular season.
“This thing can be done,” said Robert Covington. “We’ve done it before as far as finishing the season strong. So why can’t we do this? We’re playing against history. But we’ve played against history before. So why can’t we do something great?”
The Sixers made a great decision on Monday night by starting McConnell, the backup point guard, alongside point guard Ben Simmons. McConnell scored a career-high 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting. He added seven rebounds and five assists while playing a career-high 38 minutes, 57 seconds. Oh, and the Pittsburgh native dived for loose balls, played solid defense, had no turnovers and graded out with a plus-18.
However, that was at the Wells Fargo Center. Things should be tougher in Game 5. Boston is 5-0 at TD Garden this postseason. Plus, Boston is expected to make some adjustments to counter McConnell being inserted into the starting lineup.
Sixers coach Brett Brown didn’t seem concerned on Tuesday.
“How they choose to make adjustments, toggle with lineups, I feel equipped to handle whatever we see,” Brown said. “We, too, might look at some different things.”
The biggest unknown for the Sixers is Shane Larkin’s health. The Celtics’ backup point guard suffered a left shoulder injury in the first half of Monday’s game. He didn’t return. Boston coach Brad Stevens said he’ll have more information on Larkin’s playing status Wednesday morning.
Brown is wondering how the injury will impact Boston’s game plan.
“At the moment, you see a rhythm beat to how they’re playing defense,” Brown said. “You see Joel [Embiid] go to the scorers’ table, and it’s a magnet to Aron Baynes. It’s just apples for apples with those two. Whether they pivot out of some of those things or how they react to Larkin’s [injury] we’ll learn more about.”
The obvious thing is that regardless of who plays, the Celtics will be looking to finish the Sixers off. Philly must match the intensity it played with in Game 4. At the same time, the Sixers will need to improve their shooting.
They shot 7 of 26 on three-pointers on Monday and have shot a combined 29.5 percent (34 of 115) on threes in the first four games.