PHILADEPHIA -- Back home in Pittsburgh, a high school-aged T.J. McConnell used to be called the "paper boy" for his short stature.
That was about a decade ago.
Monday, McConnell checked in during the fourth quarter of a playoff basketball game at Wells Fargo Center to a standing ovation. Just before tip-off, McConnell was announced as a starter for Game 4 against the Boston Celtics, a last-ditch effort by the Sixers, their season on the brink, down 3-0 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
One loss, and the Sixers season would be over. Coach Brett Brown put his faith in a McConnell, inserted in place of Robert Covington, one of the team's best defensive players. McConnell was stellar.
The Sixers won 103-92. Their season is still alive.
About five minutes into the game, McConnell stole the ball and authored a fast break dime to Ben Simmons, and it became clear pretty quickly that this game was going to go a bit differently than the last three.
By halftime, the Sixers were up 47-43 and McConnell had already played more minutes than in any of the team's previous eight playoff games. At the end of the season, McConnell ceded playing time to rookie Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick from June.
Fultz hasn't played a minute against the Celtics this series, and McConnell is the player who saved the Sixers season, or at least extended it for one more night.
With 1:54 left in the game, McConnell drove the rim and scored in front of Celtics' Al Horford, an All-Star and one of the NBA's best defensive centers. The Sixers went up by 12.
From paper boy to the front page.
Player of the game: T.J. McConnell
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