Sixers fall to Celtics 114-102 as offense continues to sputter

Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, right, steals the ball from Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, left, during the second half of Game 3 in an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Friday, May 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Ahead of Game 3 between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics, the NBA held a quick ceremony to present Joel Embiid the 2022-23 MVP award. It was a special tear-filled moment as he celebrated the fruits of his labors in front of thousands of Sixers fans with his son, his parents, and many others who have helped him along the way.

That would be the only celebration last night, however, as the Sixers would struggle once again to assert themselves over Boston. From the jump, the Celtics continued their red-hot shooting from Game 2, with six of their first eight made shots coming from deep.

To Doc Rivers’ credit, after the Celtics’ hot start and back-to-back fouls by Tobias Harris, Rivers substituted Jalen McDaniels for Harris, and alongside Embiid, Harden, Maxey, and De’Anthony Melton, the game began to turn for Philadelphia. The Sixers would lead after one, but quarters two and three would hold a different story.

Familiar sights for the Sixers

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) looks to pass while pressured by Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) during the first half of Game 1 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Monday, May 1, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

While Joel Embiid was not quite his MVP self, what sunk the Sixers was an inability for any other player to find their offensive rhythm. Tyrese Maxey’s struggles against the Celtics continued, while James Harden once again was a far cry from his 45-point performance in Game 1, which continues to seem more and more like an anomaly.

Maxey continues to be bothered by Boston’s size and physicality, while Harden cannot seem to figure out how to play against Jaylen Brown, whose defense this series deserves commendation.

Along with the Sixers’ star guards, Tobias Harris also continued to be absent on the court. For Harris, it’s not just inaccuracy that’s plagued him but a seeming lack of effort. Nerely a parallel to P.J. Tucker; unless Harris is playing “angry,” he looks to be playing half-speed. Poor fouls, losing foot races to Al Horford for loose balls, Game 3 was not Harris’ strongest.

The worst of it is that Harris is clearly capable of more, he’s proved as much even during this playoff run, but he has to put forward that consistent effort. The Sixers will need a quality effort from Harris in Game 4 and going forward if they’re to have a chance in this series.

Up Next

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid warms up prior to the first half of Game 2 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Wednesday, May 3, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Sixers will lick their wounds and prepare for Game 4 this Sunday at 3:30 PM EST. There is much to do both in the gym and the film room between now and then.