The Philadelphia 76ers came into Saturday night’s primetime matchup against the Boston Celtics winners of five straight, including a 17-point comeback win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. Boston, meanwhile, came into this matchup winners of five out of their last six games. Billed as a clash of Eastern Conference powers, and this Sixers/Celtics matchup lived up to the billing.
In a game where the Sixers started off hot in the first quarter, the Celtics fought back to make it a back-and-forth affair. It was truly a heavy-weight bout, with each team making punches that they thought were knockout punches. In the end, Jayson Tatum hit a game-winning three-pointer to help the Celtics win 110-107. The Celtics were led by Jaylen Brown (26 points) and Jayson Tatum (18 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists). The Sixers were paced by Joel Embiid (41 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists) and James Harden (21 points, eight assists, and six rebounds).
Tales of the Third Quarter
Philadelphia led by 6 points at halftime and was able to extend their lead to 15 midway through the third quarter. Just when it looked like the Sixers could run away with the game, former Sixer Al Horford shot his team back into the game. Horford was left wide open time and time again and hit four three-pointers in the fourth quarter. With the help of the Celtics’ forward, they were able to end the third period on a 20-3 run. That third-quarter collapse helped set the stage for the Sixers’ heartbreaking loss.
Embiid’s Domination Couldn’t Save Sixers
Joel Embiid was his usual dominant self. He was decisive and took advantage of every matchup the Celtics threw his way. He was 17-18 from the free throw line and had some clutch plays as the Sixers battled back from a 10-point deficit late in the fourth quarter. He had a play where he blocked Brown’s shot and batted the ball inbounds to allow for the Sixers to get a transition score to grab the lead momentarily. He also hit a three-quarters court heave that would have tied the game, but it came just after the buzzer.
Performances like this are normal for Embiid, but having it against the best team in the league says something about how he has played this season. He did enough for his team to win tonight but needed a little more help from players like James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. Tonight was a tough loss for the big fella and the home team, but you should expect this team to bounce back.
Plenty of fans have been disappointed in the play of PJ Tucker since he joined the 76ers. He normally affects the games in ways that don’t show up on the box score, but tonight he showed up on the box score. Tucker played great defense, hustled, and crashed the boards. He was able to bring down some key offensive rebounds throughout the game. Late in the game, he made one crucial mistake, over-helping on Jayson Tatum to leave Al Horford wide open for three. Other than that, it was his best performance of the season, ending with 7 points and 16 rebounds.