Joel Embiid had his game of the season, finishing with 52 points on 20-of-25 shooting, while also collecting 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks. After a series of boneheaded plays, Philadelphia almost allowed the Celtics back in the game in the final seconds, but they escaped with a 103-101 win.
The Celtics only shot 42 percent from the field, and Jayson Tatum had a rough night, finishing with 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting. This is his third straight game against Philly where he was held to under 20 points. Derrick White was fantastic, finishing with 26 points (15 in the 4th quarter), 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks. In winning this game, the Sixers avoided getting swept by the Celtics in their season series. Boston was playing without Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams.
The Sixers led 103-96 with 9.8 seconds remaining, but Tyrese Maxey inexplicably fouled Marcus Smart as he drove to the hoop and made a layup. Smart then intentionally missed the free throw, got his own rebound, and White splashed a three to make it 103-101. With 2 seconds left and the Sixers inbounding the ball, Embiid got called for an offensive foul, and the Celtics had a chance to tie the game, but Tatum’s last-second jumper fell short. The Sixers should have been celebrating an iconic Embiid performance; instead, they’re wondering what happened at the end.
Embiid dominated the 1st quarter, scoring 18 points on an identical 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw line, and the Sixers led 28-22 after one. The Celtics opened the game a dismal 1-of-8, but Malcolm Brogdon scored 7 points after he entered and proved to be a stabilizing force. His three at 3:34 gave Boston a 19-18 lead, but Philly answered with a 10-0 run.
In the 2nd, the Celtics took a 30-29 lead after Luke Kornet, who got a DNP-CD the last game versus Philly, blocked this Jaylen McDaniels drive to initiate the fastbreak:
BIG KORNET CONTEST!!! pic.twitter.com/53tWtWMhc6— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 5, 2023
Major props to Derrick White for the nifty finish, but he was just getting started. Check out this incredible sequence, first hustling to deter Paul Reed’s layup attempt, then getting a slick backdoor assist on the other end:
Look at Derrick White getting it done at both ends. The guy is such a weapon. pic.twitter.com/PMoPD2CHS0— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) April 5, 2023
This clip needs to go in the Tommy Point Hall of Fame. The Celtics reclaimed the lead while Embiid took his customary 2nd quarter rest, but when he returned at the 6:42 mark, he continued to bulldoze Boston’s front line. Harden was a wizard with the ball, scoring 10 points in the quarter, and the Sixers led 53-46 at half.
The Celtics shot only 41 percent from the field and 26 percent from three in the first half. Tatum went 5-of-12 for 12 points, while Brogdon went 5-of-8 en route to a team-high 13 points. Joel Embiid scored 24 points on 69 percent shooting while collecting 10 rebounds and 3 assists. All other Philly players shot a collective 35 percent, so maybe Joe Mazzulla’s strategy was to let Embiid get his while containing the supporting cast.
Evidently, Mazzulla wasn’t happy with their first half defense, so he switched the coverage. On Embiid’s first three touches of the second half, he would see a double team when he began his move, usually from Smart. It didn’t matter, as his 15-foot fadeaway at the 7:59 mark gave Philly a 60-52 lead. But Smart responded by splashing a three then finishing a cutting layup off an Al Horford assist.
The rest of the quarter was more of the same. Embiid played all 12 minutes, scoring at will while also collecting some spectacular blocks at the rim. White’s floater at 1:12 cut Philly’s lead to 68-67, but Embiid responded with this epic posterization of Kornet:
JOEL EMBIID. EMPHATIC SLAM— NBA (@NBA) April 5, 2023
He's got 36 PTS on TNT pic.twitter.com/KO5oR0CCRa
He had 38 points through three quarters in a game that looked like the exclamation point on his 2022-2023 MVP campaign. The Sixers led 72-67 going into the 4th quarter. Boston was shooting under 40 percent and only took 7 free throws, but the game was still in reach.
Blake Griffin, getting his first minutes of the game, dove on the floor to secure a loose ball offensive rebound at the 10:15 mark. The ball then swung to White, who drilled a three that tied the score at 77. The next possession, White found Brogdon in the corner, and he hit a three that gave Boston its first lead of the second half.
PJ Tucker, quiet all night, would hit three corner 3’s in the final three minutes (say that five times fast), and the Celtics couldn’t retake the lead despite some timely shots from Grant Williams (who also picked up a very untimely technical foul) and Horford. Embiid would get his 50th point on a driving two-handed slam.
The Sixers led 103-96 with 9.8 seconds remaining—game over, right? Incredibly, Smart got an and-1 layup, missed the free throw on purpose, then White drained a three and got fouled. It was an improbable sequence of events. The Celtics had a chance to make it a 102-103 game with two seconds remaining.
But Doc Rivers challenged the foul, and the call was overturned. All the Sixers had to do was inbound the ball. Game over, right?
Once again, no. Unbelievably, Embiid got called for a foul before the ball was inbounded. Celtics ball with two seconds remaining. Tatum got the ball on the right baseline, but couldn’t convert the fadeaway jumper. The Sixers would win 103-101. The buzzer sounded, and there was no possible way for them to extend the game any further.
The Celtics fall to 54-25 and have three regular season games remaining. They’ll next host Toronto this Wednesday at 7:30 pm.