CAMDEN, N.J. - It feels like whenever the Sixers lose, Brett Brown gets a lot of heat. Heading into the series against the Celtics, that hadn't happened very often - just once in the past 21 games, in fact. But the criticism of Brown has been fierce in the last several days, especially after the Sixers blew a 22-point lead in their 108-103 Game 2 loss Thursday to the Celtics.
The criticisms have been varied, ranging from Brown not having the Sixers sufficiently prepared on defense in Game 1, to the coach failing to make the proper adjustments to the Celtics' strategy of playing Joel Embiid straight up instead of sending double teams.
However, two of Brown's decisions in Game 2 drew the most pushback - first, not calling a timeout as the Celtics went on a 21-5 run to end the second quarter (see story), and second, putting a struggling Ben Simmons back in the game for an effective T.J. McConnell with 5:29 remaining (see story).
With a day to reflect, Brown still had zero doubt that putting Simmons back in for the end of the game was the right move.
"I'm not going to sit Ben Simmons," Brown said. "Ben Simmons has played  games. He's the Rookie of the Year. [Thursday] he had an outlier. And for me, because I brought Joel and Ben back in at the same time, I'm feeling quite good bringing Embiid and Simmons back into the game. And T.J. had just played the last few minutes of the third until the five-minute mark of the fourth - he'd played a significant amount of minutes up until that point."
McConnell finished plus-16 in 17 minutes, while Simmons was minus-23 in 31 minutes.
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"That decision about minutes and who is it and how many, it's always fluid, but it's behind Ben," Brown said. "We're growing Ben Simmons. We're here to win games obviously. But somewhere in the middle of all those comments, I make a decision."
Looking back at the decision to not call a timeout late in the second quarter, Brown had some second thoughts, though he felt the process behind the move (or lack thereof) was sound.
"You know what's going on and you make a calculated decision, and you get it right or you don't," Brown said. "It comes with a tremendous amount of thought and responsibility. …There were a few times, I mentioned with (Terry) Rozier and his Euro step, where as I watched it in the light of day, that was a moment you could've done it."
Brown was referring to Rozier's layup with 2:29 left in the half, which cut the Sixers' lead to 53-40. He cited the faith he has in his starting lineup as the main reason he ultimately didn't use a timeout. The five-man group of Simmons, Embiid, JJ Redick, Robert Covington and Dario Saric had a stellar 21.4 net rating in 600 regular-season minutes.
"If it was going to happen, it was about the three-minute mark," Brown said. "But we were doing OK, and with the league's best-rated team on the floor. So that was the decision I made. And as I admit, if you had to do it again, maybe you would've. But I think that the confidence I have in that group has been earned, it's not something we just construct in our mind."