Tuesday, May 2, 2023

76ers 119, Celtics 115: James Harden goes off for 45, hits Game 1 winner [PHI leads series, 1-0]

The Celtics fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 119-115 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday night, for their second straight loss at TD Garden.

James Harden led all scorers with 45 points (tied a playoff career-high) on 17-of-30 from the field and 7-of-14 on 3-pointers, including the game winner with 8.1 seconds left to play. Philly, who was without league MVP candidate Joel Embiid (LCL sprain) rallied to take a 1-0 best-of-7 series lead and steal homecourt advantage.
"We didn't come into the game expecting to lose. We came in here to win," Harden said during his postgame presser. "Whether Jo comes back or not, we're going to be ready to go."
Tyrese Maxey finished with 26 points, Tobias Harris added 18 points and De'Anthony Melton chipped in 17 points off the bench for the Sixers -- who have won five straight to start the postseason.

Jayson Tatum had 39 points on 14-of-25 shooting (4-of-5 from deep), to go along with 11 rebounds and five assists. Jaylen Brown netted 23 points on 8-of-10 from the floor and 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Malcolm Brogdon added 20 points off the bench for the Celtics, who have lost three of their last five.

Boston ended the first quarter on a 20-12 spurt, while hitting 17-of-20 shots and Brown scoring 14 to give the home team a 38-31 advantage. Their offense continued to roll in the second period, but the 76ers kept it close despite being behind by double-digits, they used a 13-4 run to close the half to only trial 66-63 at the break -- while the C's were 73.7% from the floor.

In the third, they were six lead changes and four ties, as it was knotted 87-87 heading into the final frame, with neither team pulling ahead by no more than six points. Still, Boston was making 61.4% of their shot attempts and the Sixers were connecting on over 50% from the field.

The Celtics were up 108-107, before Al Horford (11 points, six rebounds) found Marcus Smart (12 points, seven assists), who was fouled making a layup, and completed the three-point play to make it 111-107 with 3:16 remaining.

Maxey responded with a three-point play of his own and Horford scored on the next possession to maintain the lead.

Brogdon took the shot clock down before turning the ball over to Maxey, who scored on the other end to give Philadelphia a 114-113 lead with 28.2 seconds left.

Following two made free throws by Tatum that gave the C's their final lead (115-114), Harden took the ball with 26.0 seconds to go and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer over Horford -- putting the game away for Philly -- as Boston used their last timeout only to have Smart turn the ball over on a bad pass.
"I've gotta be better at play calling and getting us into our spacing quicker," said Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla after the loss. "I think at times we were caught in between the two on one -- when we could have shot it and get a good look but we wanted to get a great look. Sometimes in situations like that we can't pass up good looks."
The Celtics will look to avoid a 2-0 hole when they host the 76ers Wednesday night, as TNT has the tip-off at 8:00 ET.

Game Notes:

Boston finished 58.7% from the field, including 10-of-26 (38.5%) from behind the arc, while the 76ers were 50.6% from the floor and 17-of-38 (44.7%) from long distance. The Celtics outscored Philly in the paint 66-42 and out-rebounded them 38-28. The C's had 26 assists (16 turnovers) on 44 baskets, while the Sixers handed out 17 dimes (eight turnovers) on 45 made shots.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy Getty Images

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