Monday, May 8, 2023

76ers 116, Celtics 115 [OT]: James Harden sinks Boston with Game 4 winning 3-pointer [series tied, 2-2]

The Celtics comeback effort fell just short in their 116-115 Game 4 loss against the Philadelphia 76ers after James Harden drained a corner three pointer late in the overtime period at the Wells Fargo Center Sunday afternoon.

Harden had a monster bounce back performance for Philadelphia in this one, dropping 42 points on 16-of-23 shooting from the field, 6-of-9 from deep to go along with nine assists, eight rebounds, and four steals. MVP center Joel Embiid also chipped in with 34 points and 13 rebounds on 11-of-26 shooting and 12-of-15 from the free throw line.

The first half was a messy one for the Celtics, especially for All-Star Jayson Tatum, who was a frigid 1-of-9 in the half for just two points. Tatum's co-star, Jaylen Brown, helped keep the C's afloat in the opening portion of the game with 12 first quarter points before early foul trouble forced him to sit. 

Brown finished the contest with 23 points and five assists on 10-of-16 shooting. By the end of the first quarter, everyone on the Celtics not named Derrick White or Jaylen Brown shot a combined 0-of-12. Despite the first half shooting woes for the Celtics, they found themselves down just 59-50 at the break.

Boston was behind by as many as 16 midway through the third period, but cut the deficit back to nine entering the final frame. The Celtics went on a 13-4 run to open up the fourth quarter and tied the game 96-96. 

Tatum, who was ice cold in the first half as mentioned earlier, fueled the furious comeback while affecting all aspects of the game with his drives to the basket, playmaking, rebounding, and defense, resulting in 8-of-11 shooting in the second half, a whopping 18 rebounds, and four blocks to also finish with a team-high 24 points on the night.

The game would eventually go into overtime, where Harden hit a three to take the lead with 19 seconds remaining. Harden being left wide open for the game winner was the result of a defensive breakdown for the Celtics, where Jaylen Brown came to help Tatum on an ill-advised double team on Embiid in the low post area, before he kicked it out to Harden for a corner 3-pointer in front of Philly's bench.
"Just a bad read. That's it," Brown said to reporters postgame of his decision to double Embiid. "It's a gamble at the wrong time. Big shot by James Harden but that's my fault. I take full accountability."
Even with the go-ahead 3 for the 76ers, the Celtics still had 19 seconds to respond. Boston decided not to take a timeout, but the Celtics ran the clock down to seven seconds and Tatum got the ball with five seconds then drove to the basket with three Philadelphia defenders collapsing in on him and kicked it out to Marcus Smart (21 points) -- who drilled the three, but did not get the shot off in time, which was a result of the Celtics getting into their action far too late.
"We just had to play with a little more pace there," Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said of the final play. "[Tatum] made the right play but we didn't play fast enough."
Malcolm Brogdon netted 19 points on 5-of-8 from deep, grabbed eight rebounds off the bench and Al Horford notched 10 points, seven rebounds and five blocks in the loss for Boston.

With the Eastern Conference semifinals series tied 2-2, the Celtics will shift their focus back to Boston where they'll host the Sixers in a pivotal Game 5 at TD Garden. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on TNT.

Game Notes:

Boston was 47.1% from the field, including 17-of-44 (38.6%) from behind the arc, while the 76ers were 46.2% from the floor and 13-of-34 from long distance. The Celtics and Philly each registered 44 rebounds and 42 points in the paint respectively. The C's dished out 25 assists (10 turnovers) on 41 baskets and the Sixers had 19 dimes (nine rebounds) on 42 made shots.

Eli Weisberger

Photo used courtesy of the Boston Globe

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