Joel Embiid and James Harden both laid an egg in the biggest game of the season, and perhaps their careers, while Jayson Tatum had a historic day.
Embiid finished with just 15 points, shooting 5 of 18 with eight rebounds and two blocks, while Harden shot 3 of 11, putting up nine points, seven assists, and five turnovers.
Tatum joined Steph Curry as the only players to score 50 points or more in a Game 7, leading with 51 points and 13 rebounds.
For one last time this season, here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- Just like the previous game ended, Philly’s offense struggled to start, taking over four and a half minutes to score in the backcourt. The majority of Embiid’s touches came from isolations rather than in the pick-and-roll.
- Boston’s double big lineup wasn’t as effective to start, thanks in large part to 11 first-quarter points from P.J. Tucker. Sometimes it’s as simple as hitting the open threes from the corner, but Tucker was able to score off a wrinkle of that as well.
- The Sixers’ defense took a couple possessions to get going, but they were locked in by the end of the quarter. After a slow start on both ends, Embiid made his presence felt with an emphatic block on both of the Jays. Philly held a six-point lead after the opening frame.
- Despite Embiid on the bench, that defensive intensity carried over into the next quarter. And it needed to, as the offense looked dreadful during this stretch. Harden’s first couple of jumpers didn’t fall, making his dribble drives much easier to guard. Thanks to the hustle of Georges Niang and De’Anthony Melton, Embiid checked back into an eight-point game.
- An absolutely brutal swing of momentum in the form of a flagrant foul on James Harden against Jaylen Brown on the offensive end of the floor. Only a couple of possessions later, Niang got a technical foul for grabbing Brown from the bench. Two horrendous mental mistakes for such a big moment.
- It’s unbelievable how close the game was at halftime given how bad the Sixers’ two stars were. Embiid led Philly with 13, but combined with Harden to shoot 6 of 20. Maxey nailed some tough shots to quiet the crowd, but the Sixers could have been down a lot more than three at the half.
- Tatum came out of halftime just as hot as he went into at, as the Celtics quickly pushed their lead to seven, forcing a quick timeout from Doc Rivers. Embiid continued to struggle to operate offensively with Robert Williams roaming behind Al Horford.
- The Sixers cruised through Game 5 because they went to their bread and butter on offense. They couldn’t have gone farther from that in Game 7. Rather than settle down into their sets, Embiid tried to own Horford every time down the floor. When Embiid goes into a mode where he’s pressing everything he gets so much easier to guard.
- It was jarring how the Sixers buried themselves. In a third quarter in which they were outscored 33-10, they threw the ball into the crowd to no one. They took backcourt violations. They took shot clock violations. There was no other way to describe it than a colossal meltdown.
- At last, a landing spot foul called on the Celtics, Sixers fans can finally rejoice!
- Bryce Harper is BACK
Bryce Harper went at it with Rockies pitcher Jake Bird and both teams got into a scrum pic.twitter.com/zyBAml3VWg— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 14, 2023
- Well, the road is only going to get harder from here as the offseason will be filled with tough decisions for this franchise. It wasn’t how you guys wanted it to end, but I had a ton of fun covering the team in person again. Thank you all for rocking with me and the rest of Liberty Ballers in 2023!