Embid-Less Sixers Stun Celtics Behind 45 Points From Harden
Hey Boston, how do you like those apples? The Sixers came into the night 10.5-point underdogs. They had no Joel Embiid. The Celtics were at full strength. Yet when the clock hit 0.00, it was the Sixers who had the lead. They took game 1, 119-115, in front of a stunned Boston crowd. Thanks in large part to a 45-point night by James Harden. A new career high in the playoffs.
James Harden has put up some great performances. But willing the Sixers to a win over the heavily favorited Boston Celtics may be up there with one of the best we have ever seen. 7-14 from deep. 17-30 in total from the field. Including the 3 that would go on to be the game-winner with 8.1 seconds left on the clock. Harden was on another level. The Celtics had no answer for him. 15 of his points came in that 4th quarter that helped the Sixers swing the game back into their favor.
JAMES HARDEN FROM DEEP 😱— NBA (@NBA) May 2, 2023
HE HAS 45 PTS. SIXERS LEAD 117-115.
8 SECONDS LEFT ON TNT pic.twitter.com/qWu1dmMhkg
Harden took a lot of heat for his shooting struggles vs the Nets. he was mostly good from deep in those 4 games. But on drives and mid-range jump shots, he was missing a ton. It seems the rest made a ton of difference for the 33-year-old point guard.
“The guy’s a Hall-of-Famer, and you only hear all of the other stuff about him. We wanted the ball in James’ hands.”- Doc Rivers on James Harden in his post-game press conference.
The first half was ugly on defense, for both sides. The Celtics got to the rim at will. 40 pints in the pain in the first half. But that turned into just 8 in the 3rd quarter and 18 in the 4th. Doc switched to the matchup zone. While the defense was by no means perfect the rest of the way, it made them far more effective. Boston no longer had the wide-open paths to the rim. And outside Tatum and Brown, the other Celtics struggled from deep.
Also notable, Paul Reed going 4-4 from the FT line in the waning moments of the game. It was not a perfect game for the Sixers’ young Center. The Celtics success in the paint in that first half had a lot to do with him. But he stepped up near the end of the game, played better defense, and got some clutch points when they needed it.
The Sixers now get to take a 1-0 series lead into Wednesday Night’s game in the Garden. It is not yet clear if Joel Embiid will be back on the floor. But as we learned tonight, they can beat this Celtics team without him. Especially if Harden is going to return to being the Rockets’ version of Harden.
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