Things looked bleak for the Philadelphia 76ers before the start of Game 1 of the conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics. Joel Embiid had been officially ruled out, so it seemed like the Celtics would have an easier time taking the 1-0 lead.
Things looked like they were going to play in Boston’s favor in the first half, as they took a 12-point lead with 3:31 left in the second quarter after a three-pointer from Jayson Tatum, who finished the game with 39 points, 11 rebounds and five assists while shooting 14 of 25 overall and 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.
Unfortunately for Celtics fans, James Harden decided to remind everyone that he’s still pretty good at the game of basketball. Harden looked like a man possessed in the second half, and his 45 points, six assists and two steals were just enough to help push Philadelphia over the finish line. In a performance reminiscent of Steph Curry’s huge Game 7 against the Sacramento Kings, Harden did his damage mostly form the field as well, as he only shot four free throws the entire game, much to the frustration of the Celtics.
The fourth quarter was where Harden did a ton of damage, scoring 15 points and dishing out two assists, including making the go-ahead three with 8.1 seconds left.
The Celtics didn’t score again after that and Paul Reed iced the game with two free throws with 4.1 seconds left in the game after grabbing a steal. Reed finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Harden didn’t do it alone, of course, but he certainly deserves the lion’s share of the credit. Tyrese Maxey had 26 points and four steals while Tobias Harris also had 18 points on 8 of 16 shooting. De’Anthony Melton rounded out the Sixers scoring with 17 points off the bench. The Sixers shot 17 of 38 overall from the three-point line and a perfect 12 of 12 from the charity stripe.
The Celtics got 23 points, six rebounds and four assists from Jaylen Brown, while Malcolm Brogdon had 20 points off the bench.
The 119-115 victory was well-earned. Now we’ll have to see how the Celtics adjust their defensive schemes to try and contain Harden. For now, Boston will be hurting about the 16 turnovers they coughed up compared to Philadelphia’s eight. The Celtics even had a 38-28 edge in rebounding, but when a team gets hot from three like the Sixers did, there’s not much you can do to force a victory.