Jayson Tatum scored 27 points, Jaylen Brown had 23 and the Boston Celtics spoiled Joel Embiid’s MVP crown, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 114-102 on Friday to take a 2-1 lead in the conference semifinals series. This.
Game 4 is Sunday in Philadelphia.
Embiid had 30 points and 13 rebounds in his second game after recovering from a sprained right knee after receiving his MVP trophy at a pregame ceremony.
Boston gave 76ers fans little reason to cheer again.
The Sixers got within five on De’Anthony Melton’s 3-pointer to get the crowd back into the game for 20 seconds before Malcolm Brogdon responded with a 3-pointer to give Boston a 100-92 lead. Al Horford crushed the Sixers again, as he has for most of his career, when he buried a 3-pointer for a seven-point lead.
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Embiid, forced to try to win it alone without any serious offensive help, missed an 18-footer and Tatum drained a nearly game-ending jumper. Tatum hit one more 3-pointer for good measure, and the Celtics took control of the series.
Embiid was flanked by his parents and teammates when he received the Most Valuable Player trophy from NBA commissioner Adam Silver before Game 3. Sixers fans roared as Embiid lifted the trophy high above his head . Then the moment turned poignant. Embiid’s youngest son, Arthur, ran onto the field and was thrown into his father’s arms.
Embiid held his son, who was wearing a T-shirt that read «My dad is the MVP,» and wiped tears from his eyes as fans chanted «MVP! MVP!»
«Honestly, he’s the main reason I’m really here,» Embiid said. «Becoming a father really changed my whole life. I just wanted to show him a good example.»
The good times did not last long.
Boston added to any emotional carryover from the ceremony and rushed to a quick 10-point lead.
The Sixers spent the rest of the game catching up. All the energy expended to come back and take short leads quickly evaporated, and the Celtics got them right away.
Embiid valiantly tried to get the Sixers on a good knee, but he got almost no help from James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. Harden’s 45-point effort in the Game 1 upset in Boston seemed more like an aberration than a sign of things to come. Harden followed up his 2-of-14 in a Game 2 loss to go 3-of-13 shooting for 16 points.
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Harden couldn’t lift the Sixers in the third, when he could have been a game changer.
He did hit PJ Tucker for a 3-pointer that brought the Sixers to 74-72. Harden then missed two jumpers in a row and fouled Brown on a hard layup. Brown made the free throw and the Celtics were up by eight.
The strange thing for the 76ers was this: Harden also let a lot of easy plays and layups slip by. He also committed five turnovers.
Embiid had scored 53 points against the Celtics in an early April matchup, but was never able to start cooking in Game 3. The Celtics double-teamed Embiid from the jumper, and he looked spent late in the third. Without a teammate he could rely on to take shots, Embiid took the scoring load and scored 12 points in the third as he played the entire fourth.
Boston’s Grant Williams appeared to be kicked in the head by a falling Embiid late in the game and bloodied his mouth.
Celtics: Coach Joe Mazzulla was caught muttering «I’m the worst coach ever» at the end of a day off video call. He said before Game 3 it was because he forgot to acknowledge Marcus Smart in a team video session for winning the NBA Hustle Award.
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«We went through a whole movie session and I didn’t show my appreciation for him,» he said. “I think (the media) asked me about it and my eyes lit up. I was like, ‘What an idiot. When he was saying goodbye to me, I was like, ‘Damn,’ and then I texted him right away.»
76ers: Made 12 of 12 free throws in the first quarter.