PHILADELPHIA — With Joel Embiid pointing at his head and suggesting the Philadelphia 76ers had taken up real estate inside Boston’s cranium during Monday’s Game 4, Marcus Morris responded by reaching his hand in front of Embiid’s face and making hand motions denoting Boston’s 3-0 series lead.
Then he did it again. And again. And again. Seven times in total.
Philadelphia trimmed its Eastern Conference semifinals series deficit to 3-1 with Monday’s 103-92 triumph at Wells Fargo Center. Game 5 is Wednesday and Morris is anxious for another opportunity to close out the Sixers.
“S—, I’m ready to go now,” Morris said. “They had a lot to say in here. They did what they’re supposed to do. They got one. S—, we did what we’re supposed to do, we got one [on the road]. So we’ll go back 3-1 and hopefully we put it away.”
Asked to explain his hand gestures to Embiid, Morris said, “Because it’s reality. It’s hard because I know I wouldn’t say a damn word if I was down 3-1. But, hey, we’re all different. So it is what it is.”
“The way Jo handles himself on the floor is great. He feeds off the energy, so for somebody to frustrate him and get under his skin, he goes harder when he gets to the rim,” said Simmons. “When people try to annoy him and frustrate him, he wants to be great and you can see it.”
Embiid got a bit boisterous after the Sixers had stretched their lead to double digits late in the third quarter. Boston, already seemingly frustrated by the amount of fouls calls against them in the first half, seemed to lose its composure a bit, particularly when both head coach Brad Stevens and Jaylen Brown were whistled for technicals after Brown picked up his fifth foul late in the third.
Brown wouldn’t use the fouls as an excuse but was surprised he got hit with a technical.
“I was very surprised. I don’t have a bad reputation of talking to officials or anything,” said Brown. “I’m gonna go back and look at it and definitely contact somebody to see what’s going on there. But it is what it is. We’ll figure it out.”
The Celtics were whistled for 28 fouls overall, a late rash coming as part of a Hack-a-Simmons strategy to put the rookie on the stripe as Boston tried to rally. Boston went to halftime with four players already at three fouls: Brown, Morris, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum. That was half of their available eight-man rotation to that point.
“It’s tough. Anytime your starters are in foul trouble, and I was in a little foul trouble, it’s tough to kind of get a rhythm because you’re in and out,” Morris said. “You just can’t be as aggressive, and the game is very aggressive. So it was hard to kind of not give back what they were doing to us. It is what it is, man. It’s 3-1, we get a chance to go back to Boston. Nobody’s head is down. We’re all motivated. We’re happy. It would’ve been better to end it now but so be it. We go back to Boston and play.”