Celtics take series lead 2-1 over 76ers: How Boston defense limited Philadelphia in Game 3

The Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-102 on the road in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Jayson Tatum led Boston with 27 points on 10 of 20 shooting from the field, along with 10 rebounds and five assists. Six different Celtics scored in double figures, including Malcolm Brogdon’s 15 points off the bench.
  • 76ers center Joel Embiid, named this week’s NBA MVP, led all scorers with 30 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.
  • Celtics goalkeeper Grant Williams briefly left the game in the fourth quarter after Embiid fell backward on a foul and stepped on his head. Williams had blood spitting from his mouth but returned later in the game.
  • Game 4 is Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET in Philadelphia.

AthleticismInstant analysis of:

Celtics defense limits Sixers

The Celtics threw it all at Embiid, defending him with almost everyone in their rotation. They sent duplicates. They picked him up all over the pitch sometimes even when he didn’t have the ball. They rushed to the shooters once he sprayed the ball into the perimeter, but seemed willing to live with a few open 3-point attempts from Philadelphia if it meant containing Embiid. He still had 30 points but shot 9 of 19 from the field.

The Celtics managed to hold the 76ers to 39.7 percent shooting as a team with just 28 points in the paint. Philadelphia tried to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter but Boston had enough answers late. Al Horford drilled a 3-pointer when the 76ers drew within four points, then Tatum sank another after what could have been a disastrous five-point swing toward Philadelphia. Over the past two playoffs, the Celtics have racked up a long list of big road wins. It was another to take a 2-1 series lead. — King

Philadelphia has been able to build a powerful half-court offense around pick-and-roll James Harden-Embiid this season, but the Celtics have mostly taken that out of the series. Even with Embiid back to playing at a high level, he and Harden couldn’t break down the variety of defensive coverage the Celtics threw at them.

In the meantime, the Celtics were able to find their guy in rhythm throughout the game and continue to give him a good look. Jaylen Brown wore them early, the Tatum closed things off perfectly. On the night Embiid got his MVP, the Celtics locked the Sixers’ center off the offense in critical time while Tatum took him to Tobias Harris three straight times in the final minutes. Game 2 was a blast, but Game 3 showed how the Celtics have all the answers in a tight game to pull off a big win. — Weiss

How concerning is this loss for Philadelphia?

The Sixers aren’t out of the series yet — they’ll have a chance to even things up on Sunday in Game 4 — but it was a demoralizing performance. They shot the 3-pointer well, Boston shot it to an average clip and it was still a double-digit loss.

The good news for the Sixers is that Embiid, on the night he won MVP, looked like he’d shed a lot of the rust in Game 2: He had 30 points, 13 rebounds and generally handled the Celtics’ variety of coverage well. But starting backcourt Harden and Tyrese Maxey shot 7 for 30 from beyond the arc and the Sixers were 15 of 41 from 2 points as a team. Getting the starting backcourt and the rest of the team on track offensively will be key as the Sixers battle for their season on Sunday. —Hofman

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(Photo: Eric Hartline/USA Today)

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