The Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics squared off in TD Garden looking to retake the series lead in their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. In Game 5, the Sixers came ready to play and won convincingly with a final score of 115-103.
Let’s break down Game 5 between the Sixers and the Celtics.
Sixers player notes:
Joel Embiid: 33 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks, 1o-23 FG shooting
Doc Rivers didn’t mince words about the exhaustion Embiid felt at the end of the previous game. This time around, he stayed with it and . He made frequent visits to the charity stripe and was perfect through his first attempts. In the pick-and-roll with Harden, he launched jumpers over and over.
James Harden: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, 4-8 FG shooting
Tied up 2-2 in the battle between masterclasses and disasterclasses – and now with the power of gospel music on his side — Harden put a game that was somewhere in the middle. He made his first four shots but his looks became harder and harder to come by as the game went on. He didn’t help himself by trying to grift for fouls but did make some wonderful passes to get Embiid open middies.
Tyrese Maxey: 30 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 10-21 FG shooting
This game was the best Maxey has looked on offense against Boston at any point this season, bar none. He had 11 in the first quarter, hitting three triples. The Sixers didn’t look his way as much after that point he stayed ready when they did and scored a lot of crucial buckets.
Tobias Harris: 16 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 7-10 FG shooting
Harris’ defense leaves a lot to be desired but he was still quite helpful for the Sixers tonight. Foul trouble affected him but he had a few tip-ins, rebounded the ball very well and shot efficiently.
Celtics player notes:
Jayson Tatum: 36 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 11-27 FG shooting
After a cold-and-hot performance in Game 4, Tatum looked more aggressive to start this one, driving and kicking to his teammates for threes. His shooting from the field was garbage again but he didn’t let it shake his aggression. The Celtics got some good looks thanks to his ability to attack the hoop but they failed to capitalize often.
Jaylen Brown: 24 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 9-16 FG shooting
Would you believe that Brown scored a big portion of the Celtics’ points to start out? Crazy, I know! Three first-half fouls limited the damage he could inflict but he also couldn’t get his own good looks often enough.
With control for the series on the line in what may be the clearest window to the championship in a while, there was no overstating how important this game was for both the Sixers and the Celtics. Stealing another game in Boston was a tall order but it was of the utmost importance for Embiid, Harden and company to deliver.
The defensive assignments stayed the same, though prior to the game, Rivers mentioned how they have been trying to give him different matchups than Al Horford. Embiid got a lucky roll on a deep, end-of-the-shot-clock, stepback three to start the game. Horford defended him with good physicality but the Sixers’ offensive rebounding, including pair from Embiid, patched up the holes left by some tough misses. Marcus Smart hit a pair of triples to help Boston overcome three misses from Tatum early on.
Embiid and Harden worked their pick-and-roll magic well, generating shots for each guy coming away with a bucket on three straight possessions. Boston responded by pushing the tempo and scoring inside. Maxey started contributing with eight quick points and a feed to Embiid for three. He looked confident and scored efficiently as Philly ended the first quarter up by seven.
Danuel House Jr. got an extended run with the backup unit to start the second, replacing Jalen McDaniels in the rotation and guarding Malcolm Brogdon. Rivers showed his trust in him a lot to assign him to one of Boston’s best performers of the series. Harden continued his shooting heater and House scored on a fastbreak layup to put Philly up by 14, bringing out some boos from the Boston crowd.
The Sixers bailed the Celtics’ stagnant and old offense out by committing fouls. Boston didn’t make its first second-quarter field goal until Brogdon blew right by Harden after a switch. Harden also fouled Derrick White on a triple and he made all three freebies. Philly went three minutes without a point and gave Boston another free throw with a tech from the bench. Grant Williams repaid the favor with two shooting fouls on Embiid.
The Sixers found themselves on offense again and went up by 12 as the Celtics’ shot the ball poorly from deep — just four makes in their first 16 attempts. Embiid drew fouls repeatedly as he took it to the hoop. Philly led 58-49 at the break.
Harris got his 10th rebound of the game on a tip-in after a miss. The Sixers went up by 15 thanks to some shooters-touch makes and the Celtics’ continued shooting woes. Brown and (mostly) Tatum didn’t let them fall too far behind but the Sixers maintained their lead through free throws and Embiid dropping mid-range gems over defenders. Harden driving to his left and dropping dimes at the nail for Embiid to walk into and fire into the hoop worked wonders for Philly.
Payton Pritchard made his way into the game with three minutes left in the third quarter as the Celtics trailed by 16. Brown fouled Harden on a three to pick up his fourth foul. Melton poked the ball out from behind Tatum and Maxey hit him with a great outlet pass. Trailed by Smart, Melton…took his time and converted the layup after a contest. House took the rebound off of an Embiid block for another transition layup.
Scrambling at the end of the shot clock, Embiid threw a pass over his head to Maxey that he took for an easy floater, putting the Sixers up 19. An off-the-bounce triple from Tatum before the third-quarter buzzer sounded didn’t prevent the boobirds from coming back.
House scored on two more drives to the hoop, showing an impressive level of determination and ability to avoid the Celtics’ rim protection. But the Celtics stayed aggressive themselves, doing well enough in the non-Embiid minutes to bring him back into the game with nine minutes left. A Maxey triple (off of an assist from House) to make the Sixers’ lead 14 may have been the biggest bucket of the game: had Boston gone down and made it a single-digit game, the comeback was well within reach.
Instead, Maxey came up huge and Embiid later hit a three to keep the lead in the double figures. On an open Bosotn break, Embiid notched a chase-down block on what would have been a dunk from Brown. Each time the Celtics saw a glimpse of light, the Sixers found a way to block it out again.
Boston emptied its bench with just under four minutes left and forced an eight-second violation as it trimmed the deficit. The bench Celtics got it down from 21 to 12, forcing a Sixers timeout. Nothing came out of the mini scare. The Sixers are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals.
Harden’s pregame fit, in my opinion, wasn’t anything insane by his standards.
A lot of the referee’s calls were very late.
Game 6 will be in Philly on Thursday at 7:30.
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