But it didn’t matter. Game 3 was all about grit for the Celtics.
Boston displayed it in spades as it overcame a difficult offensive showing and pulled away in the final two minutes to take a 3-0 series lead with a 102-94 win over the 76ers Friday night.
While the Celtics shot 41.4 percent from the floor and only connected on 8-of-31 3-pointers, their stout defense put them on the precipice of advancing in the NBA playoffs. Philadelphia shot just 29.5 percent from the floor as Marcus Smart led the defensive effort with three steals. Smart’s biggest steal came with just under two minutes left as he picked off a pass and quickly got the ball to Jaylen Brown, who took it coast-to-coast and finished through contact for a 3-point play to give Boston a 95-94 lead with 1:37 remaining. That sparked a 10-0 run from the Celtics to close out the game.
The Celtics weren’t bolstered this time by another sensational outing from Jayson Tatum. Tatum picked up three fouls in the first quarter and didn’t play a minute of the second stanza. He finished with 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting, including going 2-for-9 from deep.
Kemba Walker carried the bulk of the offensive load with his mid-range and long-range shots as he scored a team-high 24 points, including knocking down a key jumper with just over a minute left to expand Boston’s lead to 98-94. Walker was also active on the glass as he grabbed eight rebounds. Brown continued his strong play by netting 21 points.
Boston got off to a strong start but couldn’t put the 76ers away as Philadelphia hung around with its physical play and ability to get to the free-throw line. Philadelphia made 29-of-34 free throws while Boston converted 22-of-24 at the charity stripe.
In the loss, Joel Embiid tallied a game-high 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.