The Philadelphia 76ers came into a massive Game 4 against the Boston Celtics Sunday afternoon, looking to tie the series. In Game 3, the Sixers lost after an emotional MVP ceremony for Joel Embiid and knew they had let an opportunity slip away to keep home-court advantage after stealing Game 1 in Boston.
The Sixers came out with more effort early in this one. There was an asserted effort to crash the glass and go for some of those 50-50 balls. Even with Philadelphia playing with extra energy, the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown came out on fire, scoring 12 of the first 14 points for Boston. The 76ers were able to withstand the early run from Brown, which allowed the Sixers’ stars to catch fire. With Embiid on the bench in the second quarter, James Harden came out firing and helped his team build a double-digit lead.
In the third quarter, the Sixers ran good offense and played great defense to help build their lead to 16 points. The Celtics didn’t go quietly as Jayson Tatum got it going, scoring 13 points in the third to help the Celtics cut the lead to seven going into the fourth. With head coach Doc Rivers shortening the rotation, the Sixers and Joel Embiid specifically seemed to run out of gas. This allowed the Celtics to fight back and actually take control late in the quarter. With Embiid gassed, James Harden continued his excellent night and helped tie the game to send it to overtime.
Overtime was a back-and-forth affair, with two questionable calls not going in the Sixers’ favor. Even though they didn’t get the calls, they kept fighting, and Joel Embiid found James Harden for the game-winning three-pointer. Marcus Smart’s three-pointer was just after the buzzer, with both teams now heading back to Boston with the series tied at two a piece after a 116-115 win for the Sixers.
The Beard Bounces Back
After having two back-to-back lackluster performances in Game 2 and 3, James Harden returned to form with an excellent Game 4. Harden was aggressive early and often and didn’t shy away from going to the rim. He hasn’t had much success at the rim this postseason but had success finishing tonight. When he is getting to the rim and finishing, it seems to open up his ability to get his long-range shooting going.
Harden got everything he wanted tonight, finishing the night with 42 points (6/9 from three-point range), nine assists, and eight rebounds. No points were more important than his two-point floater that forced overtime and then his game-winning three-pointer in OT off a pass from Joel Embiid.
The highs and lows of James Harden this postseason have been extreme, but tonight, they got the best of Harden. The 76ers needed every bit of his performance, especially when Joel Embiid was gassed in the 4th quarter. Harden controlled the offense and only had one turnover all night. Philadelphia may not need this James Harden every game, but they could use something in the middle. He’s shown that he can dominate in this series, and he needs to continue to if the Sixers are going to have a chance to win this series.
Energy! Gotta Lot of Energy!
The Sixers played with much more energy and desperation than they had these last two games against the Celtics. They were fighting for offensive rebounds and showing more effort trying to get 50/50 balls. Tyrese Maxey crashed the boards early and often, ending the night with eight rebounds. PJ Tucker played his normal role, providing hustle and extra effort.
Tucker came down with a big offensive rebound and put it right back up for a three-point play late in the fourth quarter. He showed his will to win at the moment. The Sixers don’t win that game in previous seasons, and they don’t have a person to make that play in the past. The Sixers will need to take that energy on the road to a hostile crowd in Boston.
What Can Brown Do for You?
The Boston Celtics weren’t at their best offensively in Game 4, but when they needed it, buckets seemed to always come from Jaylen Brown. He scored in a variety of ways and started out scorching hot, scoring 12 of the Celtics’ first 14 points. He outscored the Sixers going into the first timeout 12-11 and did enough early on to give his team some time to help with the scoring load.
Brown had 16 at halftime but only ended the game with 23 points. The Celtics seemed to go away from him in the second half as Tatum and Smart got going. The Celtics are going to need Brown if they want to win this series, and the Sixers should hope that he continues to be forgotten about late in games.