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T.J. McConnell’s career night steadies 76ers’ struggling offense in Game 4

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The message came to T.J. McConnell from assistant coach Lloyd Pierce just before the team held a 2 p.m. walk-through at Wells Fargo Arena. With the 76ers facing a 3-0 series deficit to the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown had consulted with the staff and decided to replace struggling forward Robert Covington in the starting lineup with McConnell.

Pierce told McConnell the team cared about only three things — energy, authentic nfl jerseys spirit and covering Celtics guard Terry Rozier.

“You need to come in with a spirit,” Brown said. “You need to come in with a tenacity. T.J. epitomizes that, so we start him. To declare that to a team — and you’re fighting for your life — and to then put him in an environment that lets him do it makes more sense to me as a coach. You can’t do it a lot, but to put him in an aggressive mindset in an aggressive defensive format, and to deliver the message that I’ve just said, it equals something.”89

That something was a 103-92 Philadelphia win in Game 4, extending the Eastern Conference semifinals to a fifth game on Wednesday night in Boston.

To stave off elimination on Monday, the Sixers had a lengthy to-do list against a disciplined Boston team that had gummed up one of the league’s fastest attacks, stretched one of the league’s most aggressive defenses, and disheartened one of the league’s most exuberant young rosters — one that had entered the playoffs riding a 16-game winning streak and waxed the Miami Heat 4-1 in the first round.

Enter McConnell, a logical candidate to address each of these items. A skilled ball handler,wholesale nfl jerseys McConnell helped decongest a Philadelphia half-court game that had departed so far from its motion and pass-happy rhythm that it was barely recognizable. In the 39 possessions McConnell brought the ball up the floor on Monday night, the Sixers generated a fat 1.23 points per possession, according to data collected by Second Spectrum.

“He changed everything,” center Joel Embiid said. “He was pressing full court the whole time doing his job, running the offense, getting guys involved, making shots, layups.”

Under McConnell’s direction, the Sixers achieved some of their zippiest half-court action in the series. It was less the graceful choreography of the second half of the regular season and more guerrilla theater, but only two of those 39 possessions resulted in isolation plays. He also generated plenty of production in his own right — 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting from the field, seven rebounds and five assists. Incredibly, he scored 14 points in the paint in Game 4 — the most for any player in the game — and converted six of his seven shot attempts in the restricted area, according to ESPN Sports & Information.

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