Trust allowed the Sixers to win Game 4 against the Celtics

Joel Embiid, Sixers
Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (21) and P.J. Tucker celebrate during overtime of Game 4 in an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia 76ers survive a nail bitter against the Boston Celtics Sunday afternoon, winning 116-115 on a game-winning three-pointer by James Harden. The series is now tied 2-2 with the Sixers heading to Boston for Game 5.

The fateful shot that sealed the game was assisted by Joel Embiid, who was being guarded by Jayson Tatum initially but was double-teamed after Jaylen Brown helped off of James Harden in the corner. When Embiid made his move to the score down low in the paint, Brown collapsed on Embiid, which allow Embiid to make a split-second pass to Harden in the corner. He nailed the catch and shoot long range shot, which proved to be the winning basket for the Sixers.

Head coach Doc Rivers was asked postgame about that play and he responded, “You talk about trust, you know, that’s what it’s all about right there“. There have been a few themes around the team this season, most notable that this is a “we season” and that has a lot to do with trusting your teammates.

Embiid displays trust in his fellow Sixers

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)

Joel Embiid has made a massive jump this season trusting his teammates in critical situations. In the past Embiid had a reputation for sometimes forcing the issue when he is double or triple-teamed because of the lack of trust he had in his teammates making shots.

This season, not only has Embiid grown as a playmaker he is trusting his teammates and encouraging them to take open shots. There was a scenario earlier in the year at the end of the game against the Miami Heat.

The Sixers had the ball down one on the final possession of the game and they got Joel Embiid the ball near the free-throw line. Once Embiid made his move, the Heat doubled and the ball was kicked to Harden for a wide-open three-pointer and he missed it. The 76ers lost that game against the Heat but that play showed that Embiid was willing to pass to open teammates no matter the situation.

During the postgame press conference for Game 4, Joel Embiid reiterated Head Coach Doc Rivers’ theme of trust. When asked about the final play, Embiid said:

As soon as I saw JB help off strong side corner, that was an easy play. That’s the trust that we talked about all season long. That’s the same shot that we got in the regular season against Miami. Got to keep trusting my guys and he just made a great shot.”

If the Sixers are going to get past the second round for the first time since 2001, they are going to need to continue to trust not only each other but the coaching staff as well. With the series tied at 2, that pass from Embiid to Harden could have been a series-defining moment, with most of the city of Philadelphia hoping it was.