By: Kylan Watson
As the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics shifted back to Boston for game five. Both of these teams were back where they started tied at two games apiece. This series has been back and forth between two of the Eastern Conference’s heavyweights. The Sixers took full control of this series as they dominated Boston on both sides of the ball and finally got a balanced scoring effort from Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris to blow the Celtics off their home-floor 115-103. With the victory Philly now has the commanding three-games-to two lead over Boston.
The Sixers started this game off hot, they made their first few shots from the floor and were playing with aggression and physicality. The duo of Joel Embiid (33-points, grabbed seven-rebounds, and had four-blocks in the contest) and Tyrese Maxey (30-points and hit six/12 three-pointers in the contest) imposed their will on the Celtics in this contest and they had no answers for them. They combined for 63 of Philly’s 115-points in this game. Maxey in particular finally exorcised his Boston demons as he attacked his matchup and got downhill fast on the slow Boston defenders. The length of Boston’s defenders usually gives him trouble. It did not tonight he attacked the paint and when they stopped him from doing that he would raise up and hit shots from the perimeter. This is the Tyrese Maxey that the Sixers have been sorely missing throughout the five games in this series when he plays with aggression and quickness it’s a great thing for Philly and creates opportunities for Embiid, Harden, and Harris like it did tonight. If the Sixers can continue to get this type of scoring output from Maxey in game six on Thursday night, they will end this series and make their first Eastern Conference final since 2001.
On Joel Embiid’s effort and impact on the team, “When your best player is a great leader…adamant about winning…leading by example, you have to raise your level of intensity,” said Maxey.
Despite the Embiid and Maxey storm the Celtics were able to cut the Sixers 18-point lead to nine by half-time. Jayson Tatum finally came alive and started to will his team back into the game. He scored 36-points and Philly had no answers for him especially when Tobias Harris got in foul trouble. However, the Sixers put Danuel House Jr. into the game, and he did the job as he was another long defender that made Tatum work for every basket. Additionally, he was able to switch on Malcolm Brogdon and Jaylen Brown and made them work for their shots as well. His defense and finishing ability in the paint gave the Sixers a second wind when the Celtics were storming back. It was a brilliant move by Doc Rivers to insert him into the line-up when Harris got in foul trouble, and he took full advantage of his opportunity and gave the Sixers another ball handler to relieve the pressure when Boston turned up the heat defensively.
On his impact tonight, “I can’t let my brothers down. My name was called, so I had to step up… I just wanted to get in there and contribute to the ‘we season’ that we’ve been carrying this whole season,” said House Jr.
When Philly needed it most the reigning MVP stepped up for his team, he hit a dagger three to push the Sixers’ lead back to double digits and found Tyrese Maxey at the top of the key for another dagger three-pointer to end the Celtics comeback attempt. This has been one of Joel Embiid’s best series he has made his presence felt on both sides of the ball and this was his best scoring night since returning from a knee injury. Philly finally got a balanced scoring night from all of their main players, and they finally started hitting their three-pointers. When they are hitting their shots and applying defensive pressure, they are a hard team to beat, and they put the Celtics in jail tonight.
On the team’s mentality in this game and heading into game six on Thursday night, ” We’re trying to compete for something special. We’re unselfish,” said Sixers guard James Harden.
With the series shifting back to Philly for game six on Thursday night, Philly will face a desperate Boston team that will be looking to extend this series for game seven on Saturday night. The Sixers must handle the pressure and continue to limit the Celtics to one possession by staying attached to their man like they did tonight and making sure they come up with the rebound off of Boston’s missed shot opportunities. Additionally, they will need to continue using ball movement to get high-percentage shots. When the Sixers offense is at its best everyone touches the ball, and they get a great shot off the possession like they did tonight. They will need to do these things if they want to end the Celtics season on Thursday night.