Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid had an emotional moment before Game 3 even started against the Boston Celtics. Embiid received his MVP award ahead of the contest and shed tears as he held his son, Arthur, in his arms while addressing the Philadelphia crowd.
The Celtics were unaffected by the display. Boston ruined the moment for Embiid and the 76ers, winning Game 3 114-102 and taking a 2-1 series lead.
Embiid’s pre-game moment was touching, but the Celtics came out emotionally early, taking a 14-4 lead in the opening minutes of the game. The 76ers didn’t find their shot until less than five minutes from the end of the quarter. With 4:39 left in the quarter, De’Anthony Melton was fouled and hit both free throw attempts. It kicked off an 11-0 run for the 76ers, who, despite the early deficit, had a 1-point lead going into the second quarter.
After trading baskets early in the second quarter, the Celtics began to pull away just before halftime. Jaylen Brown scored 9 of his 23 points in the final six minutes of the quarter, giving the Celtics a 10-point lead before halftime.
While Brown was impressive during the contest, Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with 27 points and added 10 rebounds.
Hours after defending their 3-point shot, Al Horford let their stats do the talking. Horford was down 17 points, draining 5 of 7 shots from beyond the arc.
The Celtics kept that momentum going at halftime. Brown was down 11 points in the third quarter, helping extend the Celtics’ lead to 14 heading into the final quarter.
After hitting his first shot of the game, 76ers guard James Harden missed his next 10 attempts. With the 76ers desperate for offensive help, Harden took just two shots in the third quarter and missed both. Harden finished with 16 points, including 8 from free throw attempts. He went just 3 for 14 from the field, eventually scoring his second field goal with less than five minutes left.
After exploding for 45 points in Philadelphia’s Game 1 win, Harden only scored 28 points in Games 2 and 3 combined.
After being limited to 15 points in Game 2, Embiid tried to put the 76ers on their backs at times in Game 3. He led the way for Philadelphia offensively, finishing with a team-high 30 points. Embiid played 39 minutes, a sign that he is feeling good after missing the opener with a sprained right knee. Embiid also added 13 rebounds and 4 blocks in the loss.
The 76ers made one final push to close the gap in the fourth quarter. Georges Niang had a big impact off the bench, scoring 7 points in a row at the start of the last quarter. Every time Philadelphia came close, Boston seemed to have an answer. When Melton hit a 3 with 5:45 left to cut the 76ers deficit to 5 points, Malcolm Brogdon responded with a 3 of his own to extend the Celtics’ lead.
This proved too much to overcome, as Boston pulled out late to win. Philadelphia will look to even the series in Game 4, which takes place in Philadelphia on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).