Al Horford's go-ahead field goal lifts Celtics over 76ers for 3-0 series lead

PHILADELPHIA -- Boston Celtics players stood on the sideline at Wells Fargo Center at the end of regulation, partly amused and partly annoyed, as the tiny bits of red, white and blue paper confetti flittered down throughout the arena.

This wasn't exactly a new experience. People have been celebrating the impending demise of these Celtics since Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending ankle injury five minutes into the regular season.

And, just like in that instance, these Celtics just keep trudging forward, unaware that they've overstayed their welcome. They simply keep peeling off the more figurative confetti that sticks to their high-tops.

So after Al Horford followed Brad Stevens' latest whiteboard Picasso and muscled home a winning layup with 5.5 seconds remaining in overtime, the Celtics jubilantly stomped through the small piles of confetti lining the way to the visitor's locker room, where they will return Monday with a chance to both sweep the Sixers and (improbably) punch their ticket back to the Eastern Conference finals.

"This win just was the confetti for us," Jaylen Brown said after a 101-98 triumph Saturday in Game 3 gave Boston a 3-0 series edge. "So we'll take it like that."

The operations crew accidentally fired a series of confetti cannons after the Sixers' Marco Belinelli beat the buzzer with a game-tying shot at the end of regulation. Video review confirmed a 2-point shot, but Celtics guard Terry Rozier, who tripped while trying to chase Belinelli on the final play, knew that all along.

"I know It wasn't a 3. That was my man that hit the shot so I knew it wasn't a 3," Rozier said. "I had to watch him make the shot on the ground. So I wasn't worried about whether it was a 3 or 2 or not."

Reflecting on the confetti, Rozier saw an opportunity to needle a Milwaukee team that launched confetti and streamers during the Bucks' three first-round victories over Boston.

"If that would have happened in Milwaukee, they've got so much confetti to come out, it ain't no telling what time overtime would have started," Rozier cracked.

Saturday's game featured an extended delay as workers waited for the confetti to fall to the ground, then swept the court clear before overtime. The building still rattled with energy after a frenetic finish to the fourth quarter.

Brown scored twice in the final 24 seconds of regulation, including a go-ahead layup with 1.8 seconds remaining off a Philadelphia turnover, as Boston improbably pulled ahead 89-87.

Belinelli rescued the Sixers when he shook free from Rozier and hit the fading shot off a feed from Ben Simmons as the Sixers bench spilled onto the court in celebration before the confetti cannons fired.

The Celtics made it a folly for the Sixers by rallying from behind yet again in the extra session. And Wells Fargo Center went silent after the final horn.

"The confetti was a little funny," Marcus Morris said. "They thought it was a 3. Everybody on the court knew it was a 2. I couldn't see why they thought it was a 3, but it gave us our breath a little bit."

These Celtics are simply unfazed when presented with these sort of obstacles.

"We've been in this position a lot where that happens and another team comes in and makes a shot, or makes a great play like that. We just moved on, didn't want to dwell on that," Horford said. "Honestly, I wanted to start quicker. I didn't want this whole confetti thing delaying it. I was like, 'Man, let's go.' When you're at that point you just want to play. I didn't care about the confetti."

Maybe taking the approach of their unflappable coach, these young Celtics just find a way to block out all the noise.

"I think that was just our first example of the season, Hayward going down and us just coming together," Rozier said. "A lot of stuff happened. [Rookie Daniel] Theis goes down, Kyrie [Irving] gets hurt, [Marcus] Smart gets hurt, it's just been our season.

"But we've never been rattled. We've always believed in the next guy up and we always believed in each other. Our coaches do a great job of giving us the game plan and all we've got to do is follow it."

The Sixers now face the daunting task of trying to do what no other NBA team has ever done: rally out of a 3-0 hole.

"I think -- and this interests me as much as anything -- teams that are down 3-0 have a record of 129-0," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "Think about that. ... Just think about that number. The number to me -- zero -- happens more out of spirit than talent. Like there's a breaking point we all have and I believe that if we can maintain our spirit, why couldn't we be the one and I mean that.

"That's my goal with us. Fight, keep our mind believing some of what I said, I hope all of it, and let their bodies recover and give us a chance. That's all I know. I can't see any other way to approach this that makes sense to me and so that's what we're going to do."