The Boston Celtics spoiled Joel Embiid’s triumphant return to Philadelphia with a decisive victory in Game 3 on Friday night.
Shortly before the whistleblower, Embiid received the Michael Jordan Trophy as the 2022-23 NBA MVP. The superstar big man put on a show for the Wells Fargo Center crowd (30 points, 13 rebounds), but it wasn’t enough as the Celtics cruised to a 114-102 win to take a 2-1 lead in series.
Six Celtics players scored in double figures. Jayson Tatum (27 points) and Jaylen Brown (23 points) led the way while fellow starters Al Horford (17 points), Marcus Smart (15 points) and Derrick White (13 points) each put in strong performances. Malcolm Brogdon (15 points) stepped up with several big shots from the bench.
Game 4 in Philadelphia is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday. Before we turn the page on this game, here are three takeaways from the Celtics’ Game 3 win.
Boston fans can thank the reporter who inadvertently motivated Al Horford before Game 3. The reporter couldn’t hold back her laughter after Horford qualified as a sniper.
” You laugh ? You don’t think I’m a sniper? asked Horford. “My numbers don’t support it?”
The 36-year-old let his game do the talking in Friday’s win. He knocked down five of his seven 3-point attempts, including a big shot to end the first half and a clutch 3 in the fourth quarter. He was 6 for 8 from the field for 17 points in 31 minutes.
As our Chris Forsberg predicted, Horford ending his 3-point shooting slump was key to the Game 3 victory. The veteran big man had the last laugh on Friday night.
Tough times for Harden
James Harden gave Sixers fans Ben Simmons flashbacks for much of Game 3. The former MVP passed up several open shots and couldn’t buy a bucket when he decided to shoot.
Harden finished with 16 points and 11 assists, but don’t let those numbers fool you. It was a dismal performance. He finished just 3 of 14 from the field and 2 of 7 from beyond the arc. Since dropping 45 points in Game 1, Harden is 5-for-28 (2-13 3-PT) with just 28 points in Games 2 and 3 combined.
Credit the Celtics for putting consistent defensive pressure on Harden, but he’ll need to make some serious adjustments if the 76ers are to regain the series lead. The same goes for Tyrese Maxey, another Sixers guard, who was just 4 for 16 from the floor.
Jayson Tatum rebounds
Tatum played just 19 minutes in the Celtics’ Game 2 win due to a foul issue. The four-time All-Star finished with an unusual seven points on 1-of-7 shooting.
“I only played 18 minutes, so it was like a day off,” Tatum told reporters. “So, I have to stay out of foul trouble today.”
He did just that, and his presence was needed down the stretch as his clutch shots helped Boston to the win. Tatum was down 27 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
The 25-year-old added 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 10 for 20 from the floor. Another performance like that on Sunday should put Boston on the verge of another Eastern Conference Finals appearance.