Sixers-Celtics Game 6 breakdown: Philly offense freezes, Boston forces Game 7

The Philadelphia 76ers went for the kill against the Boston Celtics in the 2023 NBA playoffs. Leading 3-2 with the chance to close out the second-round series at home, the Sixers threw it away with a garbage display of offense. Final score: 95-86.

Let’s break down Game 6 between the Sixers and the Celtics.

Sixers player notes:

Joel Embiid: 26 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks, 9-19 FG shooting

Despite leading the way in a win never before seen from the Sixers franchise in Game 5, Embiid left with the mindset that it doesn’t matter, that they still needed to win one more. His energy was there, as he covered ground swiftly and rebounded with force. His shooting from the floor got much better as the game went on.

James Harden: 13 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 4-16 FG shooting

Harden threw down a dunk, his second of the season. Other than that and some big off-ball defensive plays, he reverted back to Bad James. Turnovers reared their ugly heads again as he failed to break down the defense. He corrected the course enough to not be as bad as Games 2 and 3 but he was still not good.

Tyrese Maxey: 26 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 9-20 FG shooting

Following his first truly good game against the Celtics this season, Maxey stayed with it. He saved the Sixers from total disaster with his opportunistic scoring, which included a great showing from beyond the arc. He attacked in transition, getting to the hoop but scoring only when he had the room, while hitting several key triples and reading the passing lanes like a book.

Celtics player notes:

Jayson Tatum: 19 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, 5-21 FG shooting

Scoring Tatum was at his worst, a common theme in this series. An 0-10 first half featured misses from all three levels. But playmaking Tatum was near his best, powering the Celtics’ three-point barrage and feeding Robert Williams III down low. Tatum has been great at doing the non-scoring things this series, including some stellar defense. But his scoring has been disastrous. Somehow, he came alive from beyond the arc when he absolutely needed to.

Jaylen Brown: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 6-13 FG shooting

Now eligible for an even more massive contract extension this summer, Brown didn’t play like he deserved it. He converted some tough takes to the hoop on Embiid but also got into foul trouble and committed some bad turnovers.

Marcus Smart: 22 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 8-15 FG shooting

Smart had one of those games where it was hard for him to miss. He caused havoc all over the court defensively, stopping Embiid on several plays, and covered up for a not-so-great night from the Jays.

Game recap:

1st half

The Celtics made a lineup change, going with Timelord over Derrick White. The move takes away their spacing, allowing Embiid to sit closer to the basket, which could be a massive problem for them given how well Embiid has protected the paint in this series. The tradeoff is that it makes them bigger, allowing them to potentially protect the rim and rebound better. Doc Rivers said that his squad was preparing for the lineup all morning.

Willimas roamed off of Tucker and Smart took Maxey (as expected) while Brown still guarded Harden. The Sixers’ offense looked lifeless early on, getting only three points in the first four minutes off of a drive-and-kick from Harden to P.J. Tucker. Williams’ presence helped Boston’s defense and didn’t hinder its offense, which started off well thanks to a pair of triples from Marcus Smart. The nervous energy from both the team and the crowd was palpable to start off.

De’Anthony Melton came in for Tucker early to try to combat Williams’ ability to roam freely. A Maxey steal-and-score and an Embiid two-handed slam helped the Sixers look normal. The Celtics subbed Williams out in favor of Malvolm Brohdon, a blow to their defense that allowed Tobias Harris to drive right to the hoop and then snag an offense board and feed Maxey for a corner triple. The unanswered nine-point run got the crowd loud as Boston called time.

Danuel House Jr. was Philly’s second sub as Embiid started turning up. He smothered Boston at the rim and bullied his way to the rim on Horford, leaving him with his second foul. Malcolm Brogdon made three triples in the opening period, preserving his team’s lead. The Celtics got back into a dominant rhythm in the second quarter as Harden buckled under the defensive pressure and Brown made some tough buckets.

Embiid got less than four minutes of rest. Boston’s fast break nerfed his defense and his shooting from the field was awful to start off. The Celtics made nine of their first 15 attempts from deep while Phily made just four. Harden dunked the ball (!) as the Sixers started slowing Boston down by forcing them more into the half-court game. Maxey hit a huge triple to punctuate a 13-4 run that trimmed the deficit to single digits.

At the break, the Sixers trailed 50-43.

2nd half

Harden hit Maxey with a touchdown pass and then Tucker hit an open three, which he struggled with in the first half, but was soon taken out for a more surefire shooter in Georges Niang. But Smart gave Boston responses, orchestrating the offense by getting by Maxey’s high-up pressure, putting him on his hip and attacking the gaps by moving the ball.

As Philly got the deficit down to five, Brown slipped on a wet spot on the fast break and was moving around gingerly but stayed in the game. A Niang triple made it a two-point game and was congratulated with a high-five to the head by Harden. He then slid his feet to force Tatum into a turnover, preceding Embiid’s free throws that tied the game and Harden’s free throws that gave them the lead. Niang deserves a ton of credit for rising to the occasion on both ends.

The Sixers’ second sub following Niang for Tucker was Melton for Harden with two and a half minutes left. Niang hit another huge three off of a pass from Melton that he threw as he was collecting an offensive board. Harris stripped the ball on drives numerous times as Philly led 73-71 heading into the fourth.

Harden saved a drop-off pass to Williams by kicking the ball into the stands. Maxey and Embiid came in with over 10 minutes to go as the Sixers went for the kill. Both sides played ping pong with the lead as Maxey created an open fast break off of a steal, leading to a clear path foul and two Embiid freebies. But the refs made a mistake — Maxey had to shoot them since he was the one who was fouled. They removed the points from Embiid and Maxey made them.

Tatum hit a pair of triples to give Boston a four-point lead, the biggest to that point in the fourth quarter. Smart hit a floater to make it five as the Sixers’ offense was shut down the moment Harden failed to get a driving lane. Tatum hit another triple to push the lead to eight. Harden stumbled and tossed up the ball hopelessly hoping for a foul that would never come. Now, the Sixers must win on the road to punch their ticket to the conference finals.

Random thoughts:

Embiid got absolutely HOSED on that goaltend call. It was a bad night from the refs overall.

Game 7 will be Sunday night in Boston.

The post Sixers-Celtics Game 6 breakdown: Philly offense freezes, Boston forces Game 7 appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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