Well, that’s one way to make an MVP case.
The Philadelphia Joel Embiids avoided the series sweep, knocking off the Boston Celtics 103-101 Tuesday night as Jayson Tatum’s attempt to tie it at the buzzer was no good.
Embiid dropped 52 points, shooting 20 of 25 from the field, along with 13 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
James Harden had 20 points and 10 assists, and P.J. Tucker had a big 11 points as every other Sixer did everything in their power to give this one away.
Once again the Sixers faced a shorthanded Boston team, as Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams III missed Tuesday’s game.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- Without Timelord, the Celtics opted to start Grant Williams on Embiid, leaving Al Horford to roam. It makes sense that they didn’t want to exhaust Horford tonight, but Williams had no hope of impeding Embiid. The combo of Luke Kornet and Mike Muscala didn’t make much of a difference either, as the big fella had 18 of Philly’s 28 first-quarter points.
Embiid shows off the footwork on Williams pic.twitter.com/AFWCvVoYpl— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 5, 2023
- The Celtics’ offense was off to a rather cold start, shooting 38 percent from the floor in the opening frame. Philly was switching everything early, intent on not being bled to death by Horford threes like their previous matchup.
- It definitely felt like Embiid had a little more juice for this one, given the insane start he got off to. He capped off a ridiculous first quarter by getting a circus layup to fall, then hit the Celtics with his most polite crotch chop yet. The lack of production from his supporting cast kept it close. Sixers not named Embiid shot 4 of 12 from the field as they held a six-point lead after one.
- The Celtics crept their way right back as the Sixers struggled to put points on the board without Embiid. They opened the quarter shooting 3 of 13 from the field. They weren’t struggling to generate shots, they just weren’t falling.
- Harden did a solid job to buoy the offense as they were really starting to hit a lull. Ten of his 15 first-half points came in the second, as he shot 5 of 10 from the floor and 3 of 6 from deep in the first half.
- Through three and a half games, the Sixers have done a very good job of defending Jayson Tatum. In the first half, Tatum had 12 points but on 5 of 12 shooting. This focus on him has often come at the expense of leaving Boston’s shooters wide open. That didn’t burn the Sixers in this first half, as the Celtics were 5 of 19 from three. Philly went into halftime with a seven-point lead.
- The start of the second half was an ugly display of basketball for both teams, but Tobias Harris looked especially lost out there. He attempted a dunk on a fast break from almost behind the backboard, then got himself blocked by two Celtics a couple of possessions later. He did a solid job on Tatum, but finished with just five points on the other end.
- While the rest of the Sixers struggled to mount any offense, Embiid’s midrange clinic continued. He shot a perfect 6 of 6 in the third, almost all of them coming on contested jumpers until this emphatic dunk. He also had two blocks on the other end as well.
JOEL EMBIID. EMPHATIC SLAM— NBA (@NBA) April 5, 2023
He's got 36 PTS on TNT pic.twitter.com/KO5oR0CCRa
- Boston had another ugly quarter, shooting 33 percent from the field in the third, though the lack of any other contributions from other Sixers prevented Philly from pulling away,. They went into the fourth quarter with just a five-point lead.
- Georges Niang cannot play serious minutes against this Celtics team in a playoff series. He has been such a negative in all four games.
- The least surprising 10-2 run was reeled off by Boston as soon as the fourth quarter begun. Embiid checked back into the game down two despite being a +13 at that point.
- Every good thing that happened offensively to the Sixers happened because of Embiid. Their only hope was to give it to him at the elbow and hope for the best. When the Celtics began to pressure him even more, Embiid whipped it to P.J. Tucker in the corner three separate times, and Tucker came through.
- The rest of the Sixers tried their best to give the game away in the remaining seconds with Maxey committing a very late foul for an and-one on Marcus Smart and Tucker fouling Derrick White on a made three. Luckily for the Sixers they successfully challenged the call on White. Embiid was also called for a late offensive foul which gave Tatum a chance to tie it, but his fadeaway attempt at the buzzer was off.
- The Sixers will host the Miami Heat Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. ET. It is their last home game of the regular season.