Saturday, May 6, 2023

Celtics 114, 76ers 102: Jayson Tatum takes over late in the final minutes of Game 3 [BOS leads series, 2-1]

The Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-102 Friday night at Wells Fargo Center in a pivotal Game 3, to seize control of a 2-1 Eastern Conference semifinals lead.

Jayson Tatum scored seven of his 27 points in the final minutes to finish on 10-of-20 shooting overall, to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists. Jaylen Brown added 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists to lead Boston to their second straight win and spoil Joel Embiid receiving his MVP trophy prior to tip-off.

Al Horford knocked down 5-of-7 from deep to notch 17 points, while Malcolm Brogdon (six assists) and NBA Hustle Award winner Marcus Smart (four assists) each chipped in 15 points respectively.

Embiid lead Philly with 30 points on 9-of-19 from the floor and 13 rebounds after an emotional ceremony in front of his home crowd, but it wasn't enough despite the C's sending the All-Star to the free throw line 12 times.
"We just held the ball too long, too much," Embiid said in his postgame presser. "We don't start our actions fast enough. That's why it looks so slow. We're not scoring the ball. We're not making shots."
James Harden continued his offensive struggles from Game 2, going 3-of-14 from the field to record 16 points and 11 rebounds, while De'Anthony Melton added 14 points off the bench and Tyrese Maxey netted 13 points for the Sixers in only their second loss of the postseason.

The Celtics jumped out to a quick 10-0 start in the first quarter, before Philly settled in and connected on 12-of-12 free throw attempts to take a 29-28 advantage into the second.

Boston was ahead 57-50 at the break after a Horford 3-pointer at the buzzer and the lead ballooned to 13 in the third period, but the 76ers cut the deficit to single-digits once again (88-77) heading into the final frame.

Melton hit a 3-pointer with 5:45 left to get within five and the Sixers fans back into it and Brogdon responded with a 3 of his own. Harden and Embiid scored back-to-back unanswered baskets to once again only trail 100-96, before Horford crushed Philly with another 3-ball and give Boston a seven-point lead.

Following a missed 18-footer by Embiid, Tatum scored on the next three Celtics' possessions, including a step-back 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to put Boston up 110-100 and the 76ers away with 1:18 left to play.

Harden, who tied a playoff career-high of 45 points in a Game 1 upset, has gone ice cold on 5-of-28 from the field since -- the worst of any two-game stretch of his career (playoffs or regular season).
"We're just trying to make him work as much as we can," Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said after the win. "Trying to keep him off the free-throw line. Guys are just working to take away those details."
The Celtics look to grab a commanding 3-1 best-of-7 second-round series lead over the 76ers on Sunday afternoon in Game 4, as ESPN has the broadcast scheduled for 3:30 ET.

Game Notes:

Boston was 44.2% from the field, including 14-of-45 (35.6%) from behind the arc, while the 76ers were 39.7% from the floor and 16-of-37 (43.2%) from long distance. The Celtics out-rebounded Philly 45-42 and outscored them in the paint 32-28. The C's finished with 25 assists (12 turnovers) on 38 baskets, while the Sixers had 21 dimes (14 turnovers) on 31 made shots.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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