NBA playoffs: Celtics ruin Joel Embiid's MVP presentation, stifle James Harden in strong Game 3 win
Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid had a touching moment before Game 3 against the Boston Celtics even started. Embiid received his MVP award prior to the contest, and shed tears as he held his son, Arthur, in his arms while addressing the Philadelphia crowd.
The Celtics were unaffected by the display. Boston ruined the moment for Embiid and the 76ers, winning Game 3 114-102 and taking a 2-1 lead in the series.
Embiid's pregame moment was touching, but the Celtics came out with emotion early, jumping out to a 14-4 lead in the first few minutes of the game. The 76ers didn't find their shot until under five minutes left in the quarter. With 4:39 to go in the quarter, De'Anthony Melton was fouled and hit both free-throw attempts. That kicked off an 11-0 run by the 76ers, who, despite the early deficit, had a 1-point lead heading into the second quarter.
After trading baskets early in the second quarter, the Celtics began to pull away just before halftime. Jaylen Brown scored 9 of his 23 points in the final six minutes of the quarter, giving the Celtics a 10-point lead heading into halftime.
While Brown was impressive during the contest, Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with 27 points and added 10 rebounds.
Hours after defending his 3-point shooting, Al Horford let his stats do the talking. Horford dropped 17 points, draining 5-of-7 shots from beyond the arc.
Great moment a few minutes ago — Al Horford addressed his G2 shooting, calling himself an elite shooter as a reporter laughed.
“You’re laughing, you don’t think I’m an elite shooter? My numbers don’t support it?” pic.twitter.com/LeWtpP69uB
— Bobby Manning (@RealBobManning) May 5, 2023
The Celtics kept that momentum coming out of halftime. Brown dropped 11 points in the third quarter, helping extend the Celtics' lead to 14 heading into the final quarter.
After hitting his first shot of the game, 76ers guard James Harden missed his next 10 attempts. With the 76ers in desperate need of offensive help, Harden took just two shots in the third quarter and missed both. Harden finished with 16 points, 8 of which came on free-throw attempts. He went just 3-for-14 from the field, finally scoring his second basket with under five minutes to play.
After exploding for 45 points during Philadelphia's Game 1 win, Harden has scored just 28 points in Games 2 and 3 combined.
James Harden has made just five of 28 field goal tries (17.9%) since scoring 45 points in Philadelphia's Game 1 victory.
That's the worst field goal percentage over any two-game span in his career, regular season or playoffs, in which he's attempted at least 20 field goals. pic.twitter.com/imro199U6F
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 6, 2023
After being limited to 15 points in Game 2, Embiid tried to put the 76ers on his back at times in Game 3. He led the way for Philadelphia offensively, finishing with a team-high 30 points. Embiid played 39 minutes, a sign he's feeling OK after missing Game 1 due to a right knee sprain. Embiid also added 13 rebounds and 4 blocks in the loss.
The 76ers made one final push to close the gap in the fourth quarter. Georges Niang made a big impact off the bench, scoring 7 straight points early in the final quarter. Every time Philadelphia got close, Boston seemed to have an answer. When Melton hit a 3 with 5:45 to play to cut the 76ers' deficit to 5 points, Malcolm Brogdon answered with a 3-pointer of his own to extend the Celtics' lead.
That proved to be too much to overcome, as Boston pulled away late to win. Philadelphia will look to even the series in Game 4, which will take place in Philadelphia on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).