Any good-to-great NBA playoff series has a high level of chippiness, where it seems like some of the more emotional players on the floor are an elbow to the face or a shove in the chest away from throwing a haymaker. We saw this in the first round with Terry Rozier and Eric “Don’t call me Drew” Bledsoe, and we saw it in Game 4 of the Sixers series on Monday night with Rozier and Joel Embiid getting into a scuffle.
Embiid, who has been the only Sixers starter that looks ready for primetime in this series, has been talking trash to just about everyone on the Celtics – and the C’s have been giving it right back to him. Jayson Tatum was a centimeter away from posterizing Embiid with a tomahawk dunk in Game 3, and he went right up to the 7-footer and told him twice, “You’re lucky.”
Marcus Morris, who is no stranger to the trash talking game himself, used his fingers to signal “3-0” to Embiid in Game 4 – reminding the motor-mouthed big man of the score in the series.
The typically mild-mannered Brad Stevens and Jaylen Brown also had boiling blood pressure in Game 4 in Philly as both were hit with technical fouls in the third quarter. Stevens was asked about the technical foul after the game Monday and was visibly flustered by the question.
“Yeah, I got a tech … I mean … I’m not gonna comment on it,” Stevens said as he briefly stewed.
Particularly in the first half of Game 4, the Celtics seemed to be having every call go against them. The stat sheet did not entirely back up many Celtics fans’ claims that the refs were out to get them Monday, however, as both the Sixers and Celtics shot 26 free throws.
“They were very physical with us [Monday] and we ended up fouling a lot,” Stevens said. “They pounded on us, they played tough. Hats off to them.”
Two of the Celtics’ bruisers – Aron Baynes and Semi Ojeleye – were mostly quiet in Game 4 against Philly. Baynes spent most of the evening shooting 3-pointers, going 2-for-6 from behind the deep stripe, and Ojeleye only saw 12 minutes of action.
Ojeleye was key in the Milwaukee series as he was a brick wall in blocking Giannis Antetokounmpo’s path to the bucket. It looked like we were in store for more Ojeleye in this series as he played 22 minutes in Game 1 – which was Boston’s most decisive victory in the series thus far. Since then Ojeleye has played considerably less, as he’s averaging just five minutes of PT in the series thus far. He averaged 18 minutes of playing time against the Bucks.
It will be interesting to see if Stevens turns to Ojeleye more in Game 5 tonight at the Garden (8 p.m., TNT), particularly if things continue to get physical.