Celtics (102-114): Boston ruins Joel Embiid’s MVP night

Reclaiming home-court advantage in Game 1 but outclassed in Game 2, the Sixers wanted to take the third inning to put pressure on the Celtics and celebrate Joel Embiid’s MVP title in style. Result ? Boston put a big air conditioning in Philadelphia, winning as a boss 102-114. Come on, let’s go for the recap.

Game 3 stats right here.

MVP ceremony or not, the Celtics are not here to give gifts to the Sixers. The start of the game? Completely to Boston’s advantage. Offensively it unfolds: the ball moves, the collective is well oiled, and it sends the banderilla all the way. Jayson Tatum, Derrick White, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, they’re all there to punish the Sixers. It’s 16-7 Celtics after just four minutes.

But Philadelphia let the storm pass and gradually returned to the game. Unsurprisingly, Joel Embiid is one of the reasons for that. The 2023 MVP weighs in on offense and continues to be a big deterrent on defense. He locks the racquet on the penetrations of the Celtics, who in addition lose their external address. Meanwhile, Philly takes advantage of opportunities in transition to pick up the score, notably passing an 11-0 in Boston. The entry of De’Anthony Melton is good, and the Sixers’ ability to cause free throws penalizes Boston. As a result, Philadelphia is in the lead at the end of the first quarter (29-28).

The Celtics will nevertheless regain control in the second. Boston takes advantage of several opposing turnovers and manages to dominate the offensive rebound, especially when Embiid is on the bench. That excess possession is hurting the Sixers, as is Marcus Smart’s activity which is absolutely everywhere. Another player who stands out on the Boston side: Jaylen Brown. If his Jay Brother – Tatum – leads Boston in scoring, JB’s contribution from both ends of the court makes the diff. Brown responds present in attack but above all makes life difficult for James Hardenstruggling in the first half. The latter takes rebounds and plays the others to open 3-point opportunities (George Niang, PJ Tucker), but has no impact on scoring and makes a lot of bad choices on offense. Well, this brings back some memories…

Joel Embiid, clearly targeted by the opposing defense and in particular the duo Robert Williams – Grant Williams, needs more offensive support under penalty of seeing Boston make a small gap. The end of the half is precisely to the advantage of the Celtics, guided by Brown but also Al Horford, who scored an award-winning shot in the last second of the first half to give his team a seven-point lead. 57-50 for the C’s at halftime, danger zone for Philly.

The third quarter is where Boston shows its superiority a little more. As a symbol, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown do not hesitate to attack Joel Embiid in the racket, and it works. On the Sixers side, Tyrese Maxey wakes up offensively and the outside address is there, which allows Philly to pick up the score but it does not last for Doc Rivers’ men.

Harden is still invisible in scoringJoel – who tries everything – starts to stick his tongue out against Boston’s fine collective defense (and Grant Williams who does a great job!), while Malcolm Brogdon, off the bench, finally finds his rhythm after a difficult start to the match. Under the leadership of the latter, but also Brown and Horford, the Sixers take more than ten points ahead for the fourth quarter (88-77).

The Sixers have twelve minutes to turn things around.

George Niang’s little heat shot allows Philadelphia to stay in the game while Embiid is on the bench. Stay in the game, but never really threaten the Celticswho are a notch above in intensity and who dominate the offensive rebound. Nevertheless, while Robert and Grant Williams take shots (the first is hit in the arm, the second eats the floor badly), the Sixers cling. Melton plant at 3-point on services from Harden and Boston knows two-three sterile possessions. Philadelphia returns to -4 on a tip-in from Embiid (100-96), there are four minutes left to play.

What if Philly pulled off the perfect heist? There is room, the public at the Wells Fargo Center wants to explode, but we don’t really feel the Sixers are able to pass in front. And for good reason, whenever there is momentum on the Philadelphia side, Boston responds strongly. Malcolm Brogdon, Al Horford, and especially Jayson Tatum plant very big shots in the money time to cool the room. It’s too much for Philly. Harden wakes up but it’s too late, Tobias Harris – in foul trouble during the match – does not do enough, and the Celtics conclude it properly to win 114-102.

2-1 Boston, Philadelphia will have no choice in Game 4, will have to win.

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