With 6 minutes, 55 seconds left in the second quarter of the Celtics’ 112-88 win over the 76ers in Game 7 of this conference semifinal series, guard Jaylen Brown chased down a rebound near the Philadelphia bench and tapped it to Robert Williams, briefly igniting a fast-break.
But as Brown started to rush upcourt, 76ers wing Georges Niang reached out from his seat on the bench and appeared to grab Brown’s leg to slow him down. Brown turned and yelled toward the bench and was called for a technical foul; after the play was reviewed, Niang also received a technical.
Brown admitted later that he had probably fouled 76ers forward James Harden while chasing down the rebound, but he was caught off-guard by Niang’s ploy.
“I think he just thought, like, ‘Maybe let me just try to grab him to slow him down a little bit,’ ” Brown said. “I don’t think Niang’s a bad guy or anything. I work out with him in the offseason. I just think he just got caught up in the intensity of the game and made a play and I responded to it. I don’t know which way I should have responded to it. But if I didn’t do anything it probably would have played on.
“And here comes [referee] Scott Foster, right away before even deciphering the situation, gives me a tech. I definitely didn’t want to get a tech in that situation, but somehow coming out of all that commotion, it ended up being even, right? And it was nothing, no advantage from that. Ended up calling it even. I got a tech, he got a tech, and then it was just a side out.
“I think a play like that, that should have been a little bit more. I don’t think Niang was thinking when he did it. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, just caught up in the emotion of the game.”
Earlier in the second quarter, Brown took an elbow to the face when Harden lost the ball going up for a layup. Brown had just removed the protective mask he has been wearing since suffering a facial fracture in February.
“My mom’s probably like ‘See, you should have kept it on,’ ” Brown said.
ESPN reported Sunday afternoon the officials’ report from Game 6 showed that 13 calls or non-calls went against the 76ers while just four went against the Celtics, an unusually large margin.
“It was disappointing to see, honestly,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said when asked about the disparity before Game 7. “13-4 in a one-point, two-point game, it’s hard to recover from it, it really is. When you saw the report that we read, and then saw the calls that were missed — the triple on James Harden down the stretch when he fell to the floor, the loose ball where they called a timeout and they didn’t have the ball. Plus, there was a foul on [Marcus] Smart on the play that would have been free throws. That’s hard to recover from. It really is.
“Having said that, it’s a human game and you just have to try to play through it. Usually the disparities are never that great, most games. Two or three, you can live with those. But 13-4, that’s hard.”
Bring on the Heat, again
The Celtics advance to face the Heat in the conference finals for the third time in four seasons. Last year, Miami had homecourt advantage as the No. 1 seed. This season, the 8th-seeded Heat reached this point the hard way.
After losing to the Hawks in the first play-in game, the Heat overcame a second-half deficit to defeat the Bulls and earn the No. 8 spot. Then they upset the top-seeded Bucks and the fifth-seeded Knicks.
“A team that we’re extremely familiar with,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said. “Third time in the last four years playing them in the playoffs. They’re a very well-coached team. They compete with the best of them. They play hard. They defend. They make the right plays. And they figure out a way to win games. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be highly competitive, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Stars in the seats
The list of luminaries at Sunday’s game included Patriots owner Robert Kraft and musician Donnie Wahlberg, but former Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman stole the show when he appeared on the jumbotron and chugged an entire beer.