Saric, McConnell star as Sixers avoid Celtics sweep

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Dario Saric scored 25 points as the Philadelphia 76ers kept alive their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series with the Boston Celtics on Monday, powering to a 103-92 win to avoid a clean sweep.

The Sixers -- left staring down the barrel of an early exit after losing the opening three games in the best-of-seven series -- subdued the Celtics in the second half to ensure a game five.

Croatian power forward Saric led the scoring for the Sixers, using every inch of his 6ft 10in frame to cause problems for the Celtics defense to the delight of the raucous home support at the Wells Fargo Center.

The energetic T.J. McConnell provided invaluable support, finishing with a career-high 19 points while Joel Embiid chipped in with 15 and Ben Simmons 19.

There had been little to divide the sides in the first half, with the Sixers turning around 47-43 at half-time thanks to an Embiid dunk right on the buzzer.

The highlight of the half had been a hot-tempered clash between Embiid and Celtics Terry Rozier, with the two players jostling each other before team-mates intervened to cool the confrontation.

The relentless Sixers pulled away in the third quarter, opening up a 10-point lead after two Saric free throws.

Another Embiid dunk helped the Sixers go 11 points clear at 73-62 with 2:36 left in the third, and a superb three-pointer from the tireless McConnell then put Philadelphia firmly in control at 76-62.

From there the Sixers never looked in danger of blowing their advantage, comfortably maintaining a double-digit lead for much of the fourth quarter.

Game five takes place in Boston on Wednesday, where the Celtics will look to clinch a place in the Eastern Conference finals.