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The 76ers fell apart in Game 3, and it’s too late to put them back together

Philly’s biggest flaws came to the forefront on Saturday.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 76ers lost Game 3 to the Celtics on Saturday in overtime, 101-98, falling to an 0-3 series deficit that no team has ever overcome in NBA history. Philly may have had a chance to save themselves had they not reduced to ash in the deciding moments of the game.

The Sixers just fell apart

Crunch time is defined as the final five minutes of regulation or overtime in a game that is being decided by five or fewer points. In crunch time of Game 3, the 76ers turned the ball over three times.

The thing about a turnover in crunch time is that every possession counts, and when you’re turning your offensive possession into points for the other team, well, you’re basically shooting yourself in the foot. It only takes one shot to each foot to be rendered immobile. The Sixers shot themselves in both feet, then had another bullet to spare.

For example, Philly couldn’t possibly expect to win after turning the ball over with 10 seconds left in regulation. This wasn’t a rookie mistake, either. This was J.J. Redick throwing the ball away, into the open floor for Terry Rozier to scoop up then find Jaylen Brown for an open layup.

In his postgame press conference, Brett Brown said that Redick turnover was a play the Sixers run over and over in practice and in games. It just happened to fall apart this time. Maybe it should have been Simmons with the ball in his hands on this play?

That wasn’t the only one: The Sixers made a fatal error in overtime, too.

Down one with just 5.5 seconds left, there was enough time for Marco Belinelli to possibly hit another buzzer beater. He never got the chance because of this lousy inbounds pass from Ben Simmons, one that was tipped away and eventually stolen by Al Horford.

There was also Ben Simmons’s critical missed dunk late in the fourth quarter.

And an awful play with fewer than 20 seconds in overtime where the Celtics held a one-point lead. Simmons grabbed an offensive rebound and should have just held the ball to run time off the game clock. Instead, the threw up and badly missed a floater from outside the paint.

For Philly, this was bad

The Sixers committed 14 turnovers in Game 3. They led the league with 16.5 giveaways per game during the regular season and are the second-worst team at protecting the ball (hi, Utah) among remaining playoff teams. It’s been Philly’s Achilles heel all season long, and if there’s one thing we know, it’s that bad habits come to light when the pressure’s on.

They’re a young team, though. This is a learning process for them. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, though, didn’t hold his tongue for head coach Brett Brown.

“I have one thought: This is the first time in my professional career covering the NBA that I’ve seen a coach lose all three games in a playoff series,” he said. “That’s my thought. Game 1, they were ill-prepared. Game 2, that second quarter you threw the game away by being up 19 with 3:43 left and you let them go on a run to close it to within five, and you call no timeouts, you make no substitutions, you don’t slow the pace, you don’t get the ball inside to Joel Embiid, and you don’t sub-in anybody like a Markelle Fultz.

“Tonight, Philadelphia, Game 3, turnover-prone. ... At the end of regulation, why do you have a shooter in J.J. Redick trying to make a point guard decision? He’s the one that’s supposed to be receiving the ball, not looking to make the pass. Why didn’t you get the ball down low to Joel Embiid? Why is he 17 to 19 feet away from the basket, in pick-and-roll situations? What kind of sense does that make? Then on top of it all, you’ve got overtime, and you saw what happened with the inbounds pass. You’ve got five guys on the floor. Only one of them is athletic enough to get away from Boston’s defenders. That person would happen to be Ben Simmons, and you’ve got him inbounding the ball. It makes no sense whatsoever.”

The 76ers have another game to get it right, but history is not on their side. The city of Philadelphia deserves at least one win against this tough Celtics team, but the way Boston has competed all season long, there’s no guarantee Philly sees a W in the second round.

This is part of the growing pains for this young Sixers team. It’s been amazing watching them play this season. Better luck next time doesn’t seem to do this justice.

Maybe it’s better execution next time. That sounds about right.