NBA playoffs: Joel Embiid summons MVP form, powers 76ers to 3-2 series lead over Celtics
James Harden was the hero in Game 4.
Joel Embiid took his turn in Game 5. The 76ers center powered Philadelphia to a 115-103 Game 5 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The win in Boston secured a closeout game at home for the 76ers in Game 6.
Embiid scored from inside, outside and at the free-throw line against a Celtics team that found few answers to counter the league MVP. While the offense ran through Embiid, Tyrese Maxey torched the Celtics defense from the perimeter. Boston, meanwhile struggled from the field while losing for the second time at home this series.
Embiid, Maxey pace 76ers offense
Embiid set the tone early with an 11-point first quarter as Philadelphia opened a 33-26 lead. Jayson Tatum, meanwhile got off to another slow start from the field. The Celtics All-Star missed all five of his first-quarter field-goal attempts. His two free throws accounted for his only first-quarter points.
The 76ers stayed hot in the second, opening the quarter with a 7-0 run sparked by a pair of Harden jumpers. The Celtics then cut into a 40-26 deficit aided by 76ers mistakes, including a Harden foul of Derrick White on a 3-point shot. Tatum scored his first field goal with 5:48 left in the second before closing the quarter by scoring 11 of Boston's last 12 points, doing much of his work at the line, where he hit 8-of-9 first-half attempts.
Embiid's 21 paced the 76ers at the half. Boston stayed in striking distance with a 58-49 halftime deficit thanks in part to a 20-13 edge in free-throw attempts. But it couldn't capitalize with a third-quarter run.
The 76ers kept their foot on the gas after halftime with a 30-23 edge in the third quarter. A Maxey floater with 29 seconds remaining extended Philadelphia's lead to 88-69, prompting a smattering of boos from the Boston crowd.
Embiid shuts things down with late 3, chase-down block
Boston punched back briefly in the fourth with a 9-4 run to cut its deficit to 92-81, thanks in part to Tatum shedding his early struggles from the field. But Maxey countered with a pull-up 3 followed by Embiid's third 3-pointer of the game to extend the 76ers' lead to 17 points.
.@JoelEmbiid is a SG in a center's body. pic.twitter.com/gFsmyjwzjZ
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) May 10, 2023
But it was Embiid's defense that signaled the game was over. With the game clock ticking under six minutes, Boston's Jaylen Brown turned a 76ers turnover into a fast-break layup attempt. A bucket would have cut Philadelphia's lead to 13 points. But Embiid chased Brown down in transition to swat his shot away at the rim.
The block was Embiid's fourth of the game.
The Celtics waved the white flagged with 3:55 remaining as head coach Joe Mazzulla emptied the bench with the 76ers leading, 113-92. Boston's reserves responded with a 9-0 run, but it was too little, too late.
Embiid finished the game with 33 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 blocks. He shot 10-of-23 from the floor, including 3-of-7 from long distance. He hit 10-of-11 free throws. Maxey was sizzling from distance on a 6-of-12 shooting night from 3-point range while tallying 30 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. His buckets repeatedly stifled Celtics runs.
Harden added 17 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds, while Tobias Harris posted 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Rough shooting from Boston at home
Tatum recovered from his slow start for a game-high 36 points alongside 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals while shooting 11-of-27 from the field. Brown added 24 points and 6 rebounds, while Marcus Smart scored 14. No other Boston player cracked double digits.
Al Horford missed all seven of his field-goal attempts — each of them 3-pointers — in a scoreless effort. White posted 7 points and 5 rebounds while shooting 2-of-6 from the floor.
As a team, Boston shot 39.8% from the field and 12-of-38 (31.6%) from long distance. Philadelphia shot 50.6% from the floor and 12-of-30 (40%) from 3-point distance while securing a 49-36 rebounding advantage.
The series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Thursday as the 76ers look to lock up a trip to the Eastern Conference finals.