The Sixers played their best game of the series on Wednesday night. They were on the verge of earning a Game 6 in Philadelphia with a gutty performance and it looked like they were going to get it after Dario Saric (game-high 27 points) used his 6-inch size advantage to lay the ball in over Marcus Smart in the post with 1:37 remaining in the game to put the Sixers up four.
“Just don’t go back to Philly. That’s all we were saying,” Smart explained of the team’s attitude when facing the late deficit. ‘We can’t go back to Philly. We’ve gotta end it now.’
The Celtics would need to play perfect basketball the rest of the way to pull off the comeback in such a tight timeframe. They did just that over the final 97 seconds of the contest, outscoring Philadelphia by a 9-3 margin to take home a 114-112 win and seal a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavs.
The man at the center of that perfection on both ends of the floor? None other than Smart.
The point guard stuffed the stat sheet in the game-changing stretch, literally doing a little bit of everything as he posted three points, a rebound, assist and game-clinching steal in those pivotal moments.
Smart’s value was fittingly shown in every facet of the game in what should serve as a pivotal reminder to Danny Ainge and the Celtics' front office as tough decisions loom ahead amid a payroll crunch. The restricted free-agent-to-be strengthened his case to be kept by Boston while playing on the biggest stage.