After losing 119-115 in game one at home and losing home court advantage, the Boston Celtics have responded with two straight wins, game three coming on the road to grab home court advantage back.
The Celtics walked into Philly after a 34 point win in game two evened the series, with a goal to grab back their home court advantage and that, they did.
A win that was more lopsided than the 114-102 score suggests, The Celtics were nearly perfect on both offense and defense, outside of a couple stretches throughout the game.
Shooting 44% from the field, 35.6% from three and 95.7% from the free throw line helped the Celtics control the game from start to finish.
Jayson Tatum led the way with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists after a dud in game two where he scored only seven points in 19 minutes due to foul trouble.
Defensively is where the Celtics shined though, after being a top two defense in the regular season, they have struggled most of the post season to clamp down like they have been accustomed too.
Game Three Defense
They doubled him, picked him up at the catch point, face guarded him, did everything and anything to make him think and work more than he’d like too, and it worked.
While Embiid was still MVP caliber with 30 points on 9-19 shooting he was not as big of a factor as he and Philly would like.
Combining that with James Harden laying an egg and the Celtics were in control all game.
After the 45 point game one, the Celtics have completely taken Harden out of the series. Specifically Jaylen Brown.
Browns pressure and physicality has made it hard for Harden to get down hill and get to his spots without any picks.
Since game one James Harden is averaging 14 points per game on 18% shooting and is 0-7 with 4 turnovers when Brown is his primary defender.
Overall the defensive intensity has greatly increased from the Celtics since their game one loss. The series has played out more like the 2022 Celtics than it has the 2023 Celtics, while still maintaining their 2023 top five offense.
Entering game four, the Celtics were looking to take firm control heading back to Boston, and almost did just that.
With a chance to go down 3-1 in their own building, Philly did just enough to save their season and get it back to Boston tied at two after a wild 116-115 overtime win.
Jaylen Brown came out on fire to start the game, scoring 12 of the first 14 Celtic points and battling defensively, even with two early fouls.
That was about all the consistent offense the Celtics had though, until the fourth quarter where they clawed back.
And defensively, for the majority of the game, everything that worked in game three, no longer worked in game four, especially on Harden.
Philly was able to unlock James Harden, as he went off for 42 and helped Joel Embiid boost the Sixers to victory.
It was the pick and roll between those two that unlocked Harden and gave the Celtics fits, shots Harden was either missing or turning down the last two games off the P&R he was now taking and making.
When Harden did decide to turn down his shot and hit Embiid on the short roll or the pop, Embiid killed there too. His mid range was automatic for three quarters, which left the Celtics helpless defensively for most of the game.
For two quarters the Celtics effort wasn’t great and neither was their shotmaking, but Philly simply didn’t miss.
It all changed at the end of half, with Philly up 17, the Celtics went on a run to cut it to eight. Philly quickly answered and got it back to 16 before the Celtics ended it on a 10-3 run to get into half down 9.
What could have been the game down 17, the Celtics were able to battle back and give themselves a chance in the second half.
But once again Philly took control by responding to every Celtics punch and kept their lead at nine heading into the fourth.
After a slow start saw Tatum with just 2 points on 1-9 shooting, he took over the fourth and willed the Celtics back into the game with shot making, passing and more importantly defense. He finished with 24 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, and four blocks.
After fighting back the Celtics found themselves up five with two to go, before Philly tied it with a Harden bucket and a P.J. Tucker and1. To overtime we go.
Overtime was just a back and forth battle that ended with Harden doing what he did in game one, drilling a three to give his team the lead with little time to go. Marcus Smart answered with a game winner the other way, but it came just as time expired.
The Celtics made them work, and probably should have won the game, but at home Philly made just enough plays to save their season.
It has now become a best of three series, Back to Boston 2-2. Game Five Tuesday at 730pm.