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Harden does it again, dropping 42 in thrilling OT win and knotting series at 2-2

James Harden was masterful yet again in Game 4, willing the Sixers’ to an overtime win and tying the series with the Celtics at 2-2.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Never in doubt, right?

The Sixers evened the series by knocking off the Boston Celtics 116-115 in overtime. James Harden was once again brilliant, giving the Sixers 42 points including the game-winning three-pointer, as well as eight boards and nine assists. Joel Embiid struggled in the fourth quarter but still finished with 34 points and 13 rebounds.

Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.

First Quarter

  • The offense looked better in the opening minutes of this game than it did at any point during Games 2 and 3. Getting Embiid an easy look on the first play of the game seemed to help Harden, as he looked much more comfortable going downhill.
  • That good start was offset by Jaylen Brown, who scored 12 of the Celtics’ first 14 points. Luckily for Philly, the rest of the Celtics shot 2 of 17 to open the game.
  • In a complete reverse of Game 3, the Sixers shot 9-of-15 from inside the arc and were just 1-of-9 on three-pointers. Still, their process and shot selection were miles better, with Boston hardly sending any doubles at Embiid. Philly ended the quarter on an 10-0 run to take an eight-point lead.

Second Quarter

  • The Celtics weren’t going to miss everything forever. They scored on six of their first seven trips down the floor of the quarter, but Harden went on a heater of his own to counter. He shot 8-of-11 in the first half, with 15 of his 21 first-half points coming in the second quarter. More importantly, the Sixers won the minutes Embiid sat by three points to stretch the lead to double digits.
  • For as good as Brown was for the Celtics, Jayson Tatum turned into a pumpkin in the first half. He had just two points on 1-of-9 shooting, and didn’t score until there was 28 seconds left in the half. If there’s one thing the Sixers have done well defensively in this series, it’s been making Tatum crowded when he drives into the lane.
  • Something that helped Boston keep pace with the Sixers in the first quarter was offensive rebounds. In the second, it was the Sixers not being able to take advantage of transition opportunities. Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton left several points on the board because they couldn’t finish fast breaks. The Celtics closed the half on a 10-3 run to make it just a nine-point lead at halftime.

Third Quarter

  • The second half started in a similar fashion to the end of the first; the Celtics hustling their way back into the game. Points on their first four trips down the floor as a result of second opportunities cut the lead down to five.
  • Harden also was in his second quarter form to buoy the lead back into double digits. Getting Brown off him and switching Marcus Smart or Al Horford onto him did Harden a world of favors.
  • Tyrese Maxey’s performance felt slightly more useful than in Game 3, as he was able to knock down a couple open threes when the ball was swung to him, but he has yet to figure out this matchup. It feels like he’s been blocked at the rim by Horford or Robert Williams a hundred times this series, each time with relative ease. After a tightly contested third, the Sixers’ lead remained at nine.

Fourth Quarter

  • It was a real ugly start to the fourth on both ends for the Sixers. The combination of Williams and Brown completely shut down the offense, so much so that Doc Rivers opted to go Tucker with the small-ball lineup over Paul Reed briefly. The Sixers only allowed one basket during this stretch, so Embiid checked back into a seven-point game.
  • Embiid has looked so good at points in this series that it’s hard to remember he’s playing on a sprained knee sometimes, but it was obvious how much he was fighting through in the second half. He was settling for jumpers often and was favoring the leg more often. He was also blocked by Horford three different times down the stretch.
  • This final quarter felt like watching the slowest car crash imaginable. Every moment of the Celtics’ run felt completely inevitable but also preventable. It took a herculean effort by Harden to make sure this game went to overtime, but it was Tucker who saved the game in regulation.


  • Embiid looking better in the extra period than at any point in the fourth is the only reason the Sixers had a chance. He hit a turnaround jumper over Horford to get him in a rhythm. The winning play was when he drove to the block and kicked it out to a wide-open Harden who buried the three.
  • This series, now tied 2-2, will head back to Boston, where Game 5 will take place Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT.

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