In one of the craziest games of the NBA playoffs, the Celtics took a 3-0 lead over the 76ers with a 101-98 overtime victory on Saturday. Game 3 became an instant classic that had everything an NBA fan could ask for: A buzzer-beater, overtime, and a more poised team overcoming the mistakes of a young one.
The reality of Game 3 is that the 76ers probably should have won. There are never guarantees in basketball, but their own mistakes and lack of execution at the end of the game cost them. Give the Celtics credit -- they did everything to force that -- but the 76ers walked right into those mistakes and now face a deficit that no team in NBA history has overcome.
Here are a few takeaways from the game.
What in the world happened at the end of regulation?
The 76ers may have cost themselves the game, but at one point it looked like they had saved themselves. They forced overtime with a shot that, had Marco Belinelli been a little farther back, would have won them the game. Belinelli has always been known for making tough looks, but this fadeaway from the corner was ridiculous.
The shot counted as a two, but what followed was honestly hilarious. The in-arena ops thought Belinelli had just won the game so they started to shoot out confetti. Except he hadn't. So they had to clean up all the confetti off the floor, but this didn't stop the confetti that was still floating down from the ceiling.
Overtime was delayed a bit while they cleaned the floor, and the culprit for all of this was wearing a T-shirt that only made it funnier.
This raises an important question. If the 76ers had won, would they have had any confetti to shoot out?
Turnovers cost the 76ers
The 76ers are a young team, which historically can be prone to certain kinds of mistakes -- especially against a team like the Celtics, who are so incredible at executing down the stretch. Philadelphia had a lot of execution problems, but nothing was as costly as their turnovers. Consider the end of regulation.
The game was tied and Philadelphia had the ball. They win with a basket here, but if they miss then they're probably going to overtime anyway. It's really a no-lose situation. However, what followed was an incredible miscommunication that put an obscene amount of pressure on themselves.
This miscue appears to come on the part of Simmons. Not only is he not even looking for the ball when Redick tries to give it back to him, but he barrels into Joel Embiid while trying to run around the screen attempt. The Celtics take the ball back up the court to give themselves the lead.
Philly was able to tie the game back up and send it to overtime on a miraculous Marco Belinelli jumper, but their execution mistakes merely continued as the game went on.
Up by a point in the extra frame, the 76ers were once again in control of the game. They ran the clock down and posted up Joel Embiid. He was stonewalled, but Simmons was able to pull down the rebound. Instead of dribbling the ball back out, or taking the foul to shoot free throws, he instead attempted a hasty putback.
The shot fell short, giving the Celtics another chance to win the game. They didn't waste it, with a fantastic lob play to set up Al Horford's go-ahead basket.
The 76ers are still in control of their destiny at this point. They just have to make a basket, and they can end this game as winners of a drama-filled Game 3. Instead, they once again turned the ball over at a crucial moment. This time it was Simmons throwing the ball away as he tried to get it to Embiid.
This is youth falling short in a playoff setting. It's not a young team failing due to the bright lights, but rather desperation taking over and leading to dumb mistakes against a world-class defense. Every time the 76ers had control, they would proceed to give that control right back to the Celtics. They had so many chances to win the game late and just couldn't come through.
Embiid got the highlights, but didn't play well
On paper, it looks like Embiid played well. He had 22 points, 19 rebounds, and two highlight poster dunks that are going to be showing up on highlight reels for his entire career. First, he baptized Aron Baynes with something so nasty that it requires a warning: Viewer discretion is advised.
Then Embiid tried to break Horford's hand by putting him on the poster list. That's two posters in a single game for "The Process."
However, highlights and numbers aside, this was a bad game for Embiid. His defense wasn't anywhere near the necessary level for the 76ers. Too often he was caught out of position and leaving open lanes for the Celtics to drive through. More than once Terry Rozier, or even Baynes, found themselves with nothing but paint on the way to the rim.
On the eventual game-winner, Embiid left Horford on a switch so he could guard Brown on the perimeter. This set up the lob play for Horford with Embiid nowhere near the basket. At every turn this series, Horford has outplayed Embiid and it's just been a matchup nightmare for him. Even Saturday, with his 22 points, it took 26 shots to get there. He was an efficiency nightmare.
The 76ers late-game execution failings had a lot to do with Philadelphia's inability to go to Embiid in the post. Horford and Baynes played him tight and Embiid would force up bad looks in response. This inefficient basketball was exactly what Boston wanted to see from Embiid. More than once, Embiid would post up and then force a one-footed fadeaway as the shot clock went off because he held the ball too long.
Give credit to the Celtics defense, and their big men, because they're the ones forcing this inefficiency out of him. They will give Embiid as many highlights as he wants if he continues to shoot like this.