OT Thriller! Sixers Scratch Out Win, Even Series at 2-2

By Chip Bayless





The Sixers came out firing thanks to some efficient play and impressive finishes by Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid as they briefly found themselves up nine to four, but Jaylen Brown’s 12 points before the seven-minute mark shifted that lead to 14-11 in favor of the Celtics by the 7:10 mark.

An unbelievable tip-in from Maxey in-between two Celtics got the Sixers the 15-14 lead back for a brief moment before some Horford free-throws after some horrendous rebounding effort from the entire Sixers roster except for Embiid and P.J. Tucker.

Thanks to Jaylen Brown getting in early foul trouble and 12 first-quarter points from Joel Embiid, the Sixers we able to end the first quarter with the 27-19 lead.

Another key to the Sixers’ early lead was Harden’s improved aggressiveness from the past two games. At the 10-minute mark in the second quarter, the Sixers maintained a 34-27 lead in part thanks to Harden’s 11-points at the time and a powerful block.

As the Celtics closed in and cut the lead to six, George Niang took a perfect side-step to create space and nail and open three to make it 39-30.

Harden later took heat-check three-pointer from way outside the arc, hitting nothing but net and scoring his 18th point while going 7-8 from the field as the Sixers held a 44-33 lead with eight minutes left in the half.

Maxey eventually nailed a clutch three of his own to get the 76ers over the 50-point mark as they led 52-40 with two minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Overall, the 76ers did a masterful job of containing Jayson Tatum in the first half. In the first half, Tatum scored only one basket, going 1-9 with zero points.

James Harden meanwhile led the Sixers with a hard-fought 21 points in the first half.

Fortunately, Philadelphia came out of the half with the same tenacity they started the game with. Expert decision making, phenomenal ball movement, and smothering team defensive were able to give the Sixers a dominant lead in the third quarter.

Following fouls shots from Embiid, the Sixers had a commanding 83-67 lead with less than five minutes left in the third.

Tobias Harris hit Niang in the corner with a quick dish, and Niang returned the favor by nailing the confident shot to give the 76ers the double-digit lead once again after the Celtics had cut into it. But Harris hit a nice shot of his own to give the 76ers a 15-point lead with less than two minutes left in the third quarter.

Throughout the contest, Niang and Harden hit numerous momentous threes to fight back against the Celtics occasional scoring barrages.

Tyrese Maxey later squashed a 8-0 Boston run with a beautiful flying finish at the cup, giving the Sixers a 92-83 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Celtics started closing in on the lead at the 10-minute mark in the fourth quarter however, scoring on an easy breakaway following a bad Naing miss that caused Doc Rivers to call a timeout with the score sitting at 85-92.

With eight minutes left in the game, Harden had 31 points, marking a clear change in his aggressiveness and scoring attitude from the prior two contests.

Later, Harden had a spectacular steal followed by an equally spectacular bounce-pass between two Celtic defenders to force a Boston timeout and give the Sixers a 96-88 lead.

A frustrating rally by the Celtics tied the game at 96 with 5:25 remaining, forcing a Sixers timeout.

Snapping a tenuous, incredibly inefficient series of possessions where the Celtics took the lead, the Sixers were finally able to end their seemingly endless scoring drought thanks to some Harden foul shots that tied the game once again at 98.

The Sixers overall looked hesitant with their shooting attempts and lazy with their defense on the three line in the fourth quarter, and this gave the Celtics a 105-100 lead with just two minutes left in the game for the Sixers to make up the differential.

The Sixers called a timeout and drew up a smart play to give Harden an open lane resulting in his 37th point, and cutting the Celtics lead to three with about a minute left in the game.

But then wouldn’t you know it: P.J. motherfucking Tucker got a strong rebound and saved a Sixers possession with a basket and hitting the ensuing foul shot to tie the game at 105 with just a minute left, bringing the crowd to their feed and injecting energy into the entire building.

James Harden eventually shook Horford on one of the last possessions to hit a clutch floater, tying the game at 107 and sending the contest into overtime.

Embiid sank two free-throws to give the 76ers a 113-112 lead, but Tatum immediately hid a three following an obvious push off and offensive foul (which even Doris Burk, perhaps the ball-gargling Tatum fan their is, acknowledged should have been an offensive foul) to give the Celtics a 115-113 lead.

Embiid and Harden were in sync all night, and Embiid hit Harden with a timely pass in the corner that resulted in an even more clutch catch-and-shoot three that gave the Sixers a 116-115 win.

The story of this game was undoubtedly the Sixers dominant duo of Harden and Embiid. Harden scored 42 while Embiid added 34 points of his own.

In addition to leading the team in points, James Harden led the 76ers in three-pointers (6), assists (9, no other Sixer had 5), steals (4), and was tied for the team-lead in with one block.

As they head back to Boston, the 76ers will have to show more effort on the glass, hustle for more rebounds/possessions, and honestly play more like P.J. Tucker defensively if they want to win this series, as evidenced by the fact that the Celtics barely out-shot the Sixers in terms of FG% and 3PT%.

Although, the Sixers saved their performance by out-stealing the Celtics nine to three, by forcing three more Boston turnovers compared to their own (10-7), and by shooting better from the free-throw line.

As both teams showed, this game could have gone either way and the difference each game often lies in defense, rebounding, turnovers, and offensive aggressiveness – all of which the Sixers did struggle with down the stretch in this game.

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