It was the same game that it feels like the Process-era Philadelphia 76ers have blown about a half-dozen separate times to the Boston Celtics: Leading for much of the game, coughing up the lead late and then losing on a last-minute three-pointer. It was still an extremely well-fought game by the Sixers, considering that Boston hit a franchise-record 19 triples, but three wins in a row would've sounded a lot better than two W's and a moral victory. Final score: Celtics 110, 76ers 106.
But T.J. McConnell, wow. A lot of Sixers played well in this game: Joel had 23 on 6-12 shooting before fouling out, Nerlens was awesome off the bench (13 and 8 with three blocks), Gerald Henderson returned to the lineup after a week off with 18 of the bench. The game ball undoubtedly goes to T.J., though, who racked up an astounding 17 assists in this one, to go with nine points, two steals and just two turnovers. It's obviously a career high, and something only one other Sixer this century has done -- the great Andre Miller, who collected 18 dimes in a 2008 win over Chicago.
Though he mostly posted unremarkable numbers for the season's opening months when coming off the bench, T.J. has been borderline-electric as a starter for Philly. In four starts this season, he's averaging 10.5 points and 10.5 assists a game, shooting over 50% and losing the ball just over two times a game. The Sixers are also 3-1 in those games -- 6-24 elsewhere -- with that one loss coming by a sliver last night in Boston. (T.J. also had the highest plus-minus for the contest, finishing with a +10 on the night.)
Of course, it's practically an annual tradition for the Sixers to get a new starting point guard and experience a surge in productivity around the new year -- Ish Smith, anybody? -- and it doesn't often last forever, as the league will learn how to better counter T.J.'s strengths and expose his weaknesses. (Expect a lot of open looks at three in weeks to come, and a lot of frustrating drives and even more frustrating bricks to ensue.) But considering how well the team is currently playing with him at the helm, and how erratic Sergio Rodriguez was as a starter, it's probably right that Timothy John should stay in the first five even when Rodriguez returns from his ankle sprain. He is part of the family, after all.