Victory was assured at the 10-minute mark of the third quarter. Aron Baynes (7 points & 10 rebounds) splashed a 3-pointer from the corner, and according to the rules, the Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 101-98 in overtime to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
Jayson Tatum (24 points) was excellent in the first quarter, starting with 7 points on aggressive drives to the rim and sweet shooting. Joel Embiid (22 points and 19 rebounds) and Ben Simmons (16-8-8) both scored quickly, but from there, Tatum took over, fueling the offense with his quick decisions. At one point, he outscored Philadelphia 9-8 by himself. It’s fitting that the man who calls himself Taco Jay got off to such a hot start on Cinco de Mayo. Embiid was the only 76er player to get it going early, but that changed in the second quarter.
After the Celtics’ lead jumped out to 10, Philly went on a huge run, punctuated by their shooters coming alive. Ersan Ilyasova (14 points & 7 rebounds) finally made his first impact on the series, scoring 8 points in the first half. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers in a stretch that was crucial for the 76ers to retake the lead.
It was late in the second quarter when Embiid decided that he wanted to humiliate Aron Baynes with the force of a brutal homicide, posterizing Baynes with enough power to potentially send him back in time. For the sake of the children and Baynes’ family, you won’t find the highlight here. Other than that moment, however, Baynes actually played Embiid well. Every possession that ended in a contested jumpshot was a win for Boston.
Despite the Philly flurry to end the half, Marco Belinelli (12 points) committed a foul with 33 seconds left on Philly’s offensive end. This string of mistakes helped Boston close the gap to just 3 points at halftime, with Philadelphia leading Boston 51-48.
The third quarter got off to a sloppy start. Tatum grabbed his 4th foul, and the Celtics gifted the 76ers possessions with a litany of turnovers. Boston’s defense carried the team, limiting Philadelphia, the team that scored 31 points in the second quarter, to just 17 points in the 3rd. Terry Rozier (18 points & 7 rebounds) came alive in the frame after a slow start to the game, and his contributions were huge for Boston.
Al Horford (13 points & 6 rebounds), after a silent first half, came alive with some positive contributions in the 3rd, including this defensive possession:
The fourth quarter was a stressful affair. Early on, Embiid attacked Baynes relentlessly, picking up Baynes’ 5th foul. The Sixers didn’t gain much ground from this, however, and when Embiid when to the bench to rest, Al Horford returned to stamp his name on this game and the series. The biggest boost to Boston’s success, however, was Ben Simmons.
With less than half of the fourth quarter left, Simmons ran to the wide-open with no one in his path just to miss the point-blank dunk. Despite this, the Sixers didn’t falter in the slugfest, with each team trading huge buckets in between sloppy plays. One huge bucket came when Joel Embiid decided that Al Horford would be his next target, assaulting Horford for a huge one-handed slam. Once again, for the children, you won’t find the replay here.
The Sixers briefly took the lead, but with 25.8 seconds left, Brad Stevens called a timeout that saved the game from a Marcus Morris isolation. It turned into a Jaylen Brown (16 points & 9 rebounds) lob for the tough finish. Boston tied the game at 87 with that possession, and on Philly’s next possession, Redick turned the ball over in a sequence that led to Jaylen Brown hitting a fastbreak layup with 1.7 seconds left. Philly ran a prayer play for Marco Belinelli who hit a tough turnaround 2-pointer to send the game to overtime.
Jayson Tatum put on his “the man” jersey and went to work in the extra frame. Although Philly hit Boston with a poised attack on offense, Tatum was there, attacking Embiid the whole way with the poise of a 10-year veteran. He scored 20 points for the 5th consecutive time, eclipsing Larry Bird’s record for most consecutive 20-point playoff games in a row as a rookie.
But the game came down to one man: our max contract All-Star Al Horford. With 7 seconds left, Brad Stevens ran an ATO play for Horford who hit the layup with 5.5 seconds.
On the next possession, Horford stole the inbounds pass to send seal the game and send Philly packing. The Boston big man showed love to his coach for after-timeout brilliance.
Al Horford asked if final ATO went as planned by @CassidyHubbarth: "Oh yeah it went, totally. Brad is a genius man. Unbelievable. Sometimes he draws stuff up & I look at it & I go, ‘I don’t think…’ But no... I missed some shots I normally make but I made that one, so it’s good."— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) May 5, 2018
Boston seeks the sweep in Game 4 on Monday night at 6PM EST.