Celtics vs. 76ers score, takeaways: Clutch Jayson Tatum leads Boston; James Harden's shooting woes continue
Joel Embiid went for 30 and 13, but he got little help from his supporting cast
The Celtics have seized a 2-1 edge in their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the 76ers by holding off host Philadelphia, 114-102, on Friday night. Jayson Tatum led Boston with 27 points, bouncing back from a 7-point outing in Game 2. Six other Celtics scored in double figures.
Before the game the home crowd showered Joel Embiid with love when he, the first won by a 76er since Allen Iverson two decades ago. An emotional Embiid shared a special moment when he young son ran out on the court to give his dad a hug.
If only the game went as well for Philadelphia.
Embiid did lead all scorers with 30 points and 13 rebounds in 39 minutes, but there's still a bit of a fatigue factor as he continues to work his way back from a knee injury. James Harden, on the other hand, had a woeful night, scoring only 16 points on 3-of-14 shooting, going 2 of 7 from deep while committing five turnovers.
Game 4 will be Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Here are a few takeaways from Game 3, along with a recap of our live updates.
It's possible for stars to affect winning even when they shoot poorly from the field, but that was not the case for Harden on Friday night. Not only was he unable to knock down jumpers, but he also looked hesitant and perplexed around the rim, kicking the ball out even when he appeared to have an open look.
Harden is being targeted by the Celtics on defense, so if he's not going to produce prolifically as a scorer, he's going to be a net negative for the 76ers. Not surprisingly, Harden was minus-12 in his 40 minutes on Friday, despite dishing out 11 assists. He may not need to score 45 points every game, like he did in Game 1, but the 76ers aren't going to win this series unless Harden is more aggressive and decisive.
Closing time for Tatum
Superstars are superstars for a reason, and Tatum showed why he could potentially be the best player on a championship team with tremendous clutch play down the stretch of Game 3. As the 76ers attempted to climb back into the game late, Tatum hit a difficult turnaround jumper to push the lead back to nine. Then, with just under two minutes left, he made an absolute dagger step-back 3-pointer to put things out of reach.
The Celtics experienced some relative struggles in the clutch during the regular season, so it has to give them confidence to see Tatum finish a game like this, outscoring the Sixers by himself in the final three minutes.
The MVP is back
The 76ers have plenty of things to worry about after Game 3, but Joel Embiid is not one of them. The MVP is the only reason Philadelphia was even in the game, using his unique array of bully ball and finesse to thwart the Celtics defense, which sent more double-teams than usual at him. Embiid was also incredible on the defensive end, showing great timing and athleticism on his four blocks.
The 76ers are going to need all of this and more from Embiid, especially if the support from Harden and Tyrese Maxey is going to be inconsistent. Philadelphia is surely hoping that Embiid's health will improve as the series goes along, but he's going to have an extremely large burden on his shoulders.
Grant Williams bleeding
In a scramble for the ball, Joel Embiid's foot landed on the back of Grant Wiliams' head, which was pressed into the floor. He's on the sidelines being attended to, and appears to be bleeding from the mouth.
End of 3rd quarter: Celtics 88, 76ers 77
- Joel Embiid: 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks
- Jaylen Brown: 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists
- Jayson Tatum: 17 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists
- James Harden: 8 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 turnovers, 1-9 FG
Sixers can't break through
Despite a couple of short runs, the 76ers have been unable to erase the Celtics' halftime lead. James Harden continues to struggle mightily, while Joel Embiid is starting to look a bit fatigued. Jaylen Brown has been spectacular in the third quarter, and Boston just comes at you with waves of energy and talent off the bench.
Jayson Tatum emerged quickly from the locker room, and is back in the game.
Tatum heading to locker room
Jayson Tatum made his way to the Celtics locker room after crashing into a spectator while saving the ball. It looked like he hurt his lower leg area.
Melton's shot counts
Initially waved off, DeAnthony Melton's 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the second quarter was reviewed and determined to have counted, so the 76ers finished the half down seven points instead of 10.
Halftime: Celtics 57, 76ers 50
Jayson Tatum: 13 points, 3 rebounds, 5-12 FG
Joel Embiid: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks
Jaylen Brown: 11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
James Harden: 8 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 turnovers, 1-7 FG