Harmauled Celtics

By: Kylan Watson

After a disappointing game three loss the Philadelphia 76ers faced the Boston Celtics with their season on the line. They could not afford to go back to Boston for game five down three-games-to-one and they played like a team that was desperate for the win. Both teams went blow for blow in this contest, it took a James Harden corner three to beat Boston 116-115 and tie this series at two-games apiece.

The Sixers started this game off hot when they came out and hit Boston in the mouth early on. They made the Celtics react to what they were doing and that was attacking the paint early and often. The duo of James Harden and Joel Embiid combined for 76 of Philly’s 116-points and both players imposed their will throughout this contest. James Harden in particular had a bounce back game after having two terrible scoring performances in games two and three. He played way more aggressively and decisively tonight, and the Celtics could do nothing to contain him. When he plays like this there is nothing anyone can do to stop him, and that forces a double or triple team from the opposing defense.  That defensive scheme leaves one of his teammates open for a high-percentage shot. This happened early and often in this contest, and Philly’s role players made Boston pay for daring to leave them open which they were not doing in the previous two games. When the Sixers are operating on all cylinders even the mighty Celtics have trouble dealing with them and that led them to a 16-point lead that seemed insurmountable.

However, nobody told the Celtics they were supposed to give-up after being blown off the floor throughout the majority of this game. The trio of Jayson Tatum (24-points), Jaylen Brown (23-points) and Marcus Smart (21-points) refused to let their team give this game up. They combined for 68 of the Celtics’ 115-points and in the third and fourth quarters they played aggressively and started attacking the paint. That play got the Sixers’ defenders in foul trouble which gave them more opportunity to come back in this game. Tatum and Brown were destroying the Sixers defensive scheme, whenever they would stop one the other would go off. Tatum had his second straight great scoring performance against Philly, and he hit a late-game three-pointer in the fourth quarter that put the Celtics up five. The Sixers were forced to double team and trap him to get the ball out of his hands. The Sixers finally put the trio of Tobias Harris, PJ Tucker, and De’Anthony Melton on both Brown and Tatum and that worked in this contest. They made them work for every shot they got and forced them to put up contested shots. Philly’s best chance against the Celtics is forcing them to operate in the half-court and making them a jump shooting team.

When the Sixers needed it most, they got clutch shots from Harden who attacked his matchup in the overtime period to pull Philly to the finish line. He got a pass from Joel Embiid and the corner and rose up over the Celtics defenders outstretch arms and made the shot. This was a superstar performance for Harden who has now powered the Sixers to two wins in this tough series with the Celtics. If the Sixers want to get another win in game five, they will need to make sure Harden continues to play aggressive and attacks his defender because when he is doing that it creates high percentage shots for his teammates. Additionally, Philly will need to bring that defensive energy they showed tonight to Boston they smothered Boston’s shooters and gave them nothing easy, and if they can implement both of these things on Tuesday night, they can take a three-games-to-two series lead over the Celtics.

On getting the victory in the contest, “I just want to win. It was a do or die game for us,” said Harden.

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