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PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 07: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots the ball against Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics during the third quarter in game four of the Eastern Conference Second Round Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on May 07, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

If game 4 was a nail-biting win, game 5 was a nice smooth ride. The Sixers seemed to click on all cylinders. Taking a 16-point lead into the final quarter, and held onto that throughout much of the 4th quarter. The Celtics made a mini push at the end. But the lead never fell under double digits. The Sixers beat the Celtics 115-103 by the end, despite coming into the game as 7-point underdogs.

Joel Embiid gave them 35 points. But even more valuable was the paint defense he provided. 4 blocks by the MVP. And when he wasn’t blocking it, you could tell the Celtics were still feeling his presence. I lost count of how many times a Celtics player was driving but had to pass it out because Joel Embiid stepped into the paint to turn them away. If you didn’t understand why Joel Embiid was the MVP before this game, now you know. Because he can impact the game at an elite level on both ends.

Beyond Embiid, it felt like everyone else did their part too. They needed the good Harden to show up. While he didn’t put up 40 points, he played a solid all-around game, scoring when needed, but running the offense well even when not scoring. They needed Maxey to have a decent scoring game. He gave them more than that. Maxey racked up 30 points, including going 6-12 from deep. They needed Tobias Harris to impact the offensive end. Even with the foul trouble, he was aggressive on that end and scored 16 points for the Sixers, while shooting 7-10.

They even got a little something from the bench. DeAnthony Melton struggled to score again. But a surprising run from Danuel House gave them 10 points. You would like more than 16 total points from the bench guys. But it was nice to see someone step up and give them some buckets at the least.

The Sixers now head back to Philly, with a chance to end a two-decade-long drought. One more win and they will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since Allen Iverson led them to the NBA Finals in 2001.

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