On Sunday, James Harden scored 42 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 116-115 victory over the Boston Celtics. The victory evened up the playoff series between the two teams at 2-2. Harden nailed the game-winning 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in overtime to give the 76ers the lead.
The possible game-winning shot by Marcus Smart came just a fraction of a second too late, and the Celtics will have to settle for playing Game 5 at their arena on Tuesday. There is no question that Game 6 will take place in Philadelphia for the 76ers.
The Celtics were down by 15 points with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but Smart and Jayson Tatum led a comeback that had them within two points of taking the lead in the series.
The Sixers were in danger of losing the game several times over the final 17 minutes, but never more so than when Joel Embiid collided with Marcus Smart while attempting a driving, one-handed bank jumper with 1:49 remaining but was called for an offensive foul instead of a defensive one. After a reexamination of the play, the decision was upheld. The score remained 112-111 in favor of Boston, with 1:49 remaining in overtime.
Embiid, the reigning Most Valuable Player of the NBA, held his cool and ultimately made it to the free throw line, where he earned both of his shots with 59 ticks left on the clock and the game still up in the air.
Embiid finished the game with 34 points and 13 rebounds. Harden finished the game with nine assists and eight rebounds.
During the first part of the game, Tatum had difficulty scoring, but he finished with 24 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, and four blocks. Jaylen Brown scored 23 points, while Smart contributed 21 points for the team.
They headed into extra time tied at 107 after Smart’s three-point attempt at the buzzer came up short. Boston missed one of the few big baskets in the fourth quarter.
The fun for Boston didn’t start until the third quarter when Smart and Brown made back-to-back 3-pointers, and Tatum scored a layup off of an offensive rebound to erase an eight-point deficit in under a minute. After putting them ahead by a score of 98-90 on a possession begun on the other end of the court when Tyrese Maxey blocked his shot, Al Horford shimmied for the crowd as boos were directed at him.
Even though the 76ers were playing on their home floor, the atmosphere inside the building was anxious because supporters were reminded of all the teams eliminated from the playoffs in the second round since 2001. After Smart and Malcolm Brogdon made consecutive threes, the lead was increased to 105-100.
P.J. Tucker, known as the “heart and guts” of the Sixers, once again did the dirty work on a defensive rebound that led to a basket. When he made the free throw with 1:05 left, it tied the game, which gave them a fresh lease on life.
Good Game James participated in Game 4 for the 76ers, and Embiid performed more like the MVP he was during the regular season, despite having a sprained right knee, as opposed to the banged-up version he was in the previous two games.
Harden scored 45 points in Game 1 and led Houston to an unexpected victory on the road, playing as if he was still the Most Valuable Player in the franchise. After that, he completely lost his game and played two of the worst games of his career. Harden had his worst shooting performance ever throughout two games at any point in his career, whether during the regular season or the playoffs. He went a combined 5-for-28 from the field in Games 2 and 3.
The most the 76ers could do in preparation for Game 4 was hope that Harden would have a productive game.
Philadelphia apprehended him.
Harden scored 21 points in the first half, five more than in Game 3, and he made all three of his 3-point attempts. Embiid’s performance was as potent as needed, as he finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds to give the 76ers a lead of 59-50.
This time, Boston’s lack of star power contributed to their loss. Tatum had an awful start to the game, missing his first eight attempts before finally scoring a basket right before halftime. This was just one example of the Celtics’ poor shooting performance in the first half, which saw them shoot only 38% from the field.
Horford joined Tatum as a member of the Celtics after scoring one basket in the first half. Brown scored 16 points on the strength of an effort in which he made 7 of 11 shots.
Julius Erving was spotted in the arena, representing the 76ers… Embiid and Harden became the first teammates of the Sixers to score 30 points in a playoff game together since Embiid and Seth Curry accomplished the feat in June 2021 against the Atlanta Hawks.