If you’re a Celtics fan, this is probably the best you’ll ever feel about a dramatic loss.
The Celtics’ miraculous comeback fell just short at the buzzer as the 76ers defeated them 103-101. The C’s put up a strong effort down Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams III, but had no answer for MVP-favorite Joel Embiid, who hung 52 points on them. Boston will have to wait at least another day to clinch the two seed and the Atlantic Division crown.
Where to start.
If you thought the ending of the last Celtics-76ers game was madness, this one nearly topped it. Philadelphia tried their hardest to gift the Celtics a win, catalyzing an insane sequence which included a Tyrese Maxey turnover, Marcus Smart and-1, and a Derrick White three off the intentional miss all within the closing seconds of regulation. A tough baseline turnaround from Jayson Tatum at the buzzer was off the mark, and the Sixers survived to beat the Celtics for the first time this season.
This is a result Boston should feel fine about despite the loss. Joel Embiid was absolutely monstrous, finishing with 53 points on 80%(!!!) from the field, but the C’s hung tough the entire night and nearly overcame Philly’s one-man offensive attack. Six Celtics finished in double figures, including Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon who had 26 and 18 respectively. Tatum ended with 19 on 7/20 shooting.
The Celtics didn’t shoot well from deep at just 33.3%, and Tatum didn’t always look his best throughout the night. Still, Boston found consistency in the second half, and bullied the Sixers when Embiid was off the floor, exposing their lack of depth. Essentially, this game showed that for Philadelphia to take down the full-strength Celtics in the Playoffs, Embiid playing this type of game won’t be enough.
With all that being said, the brilliance of Joel Embiid’s performance can’t be overstated enough. He dissected the Celtics from the mid-range and torched them at the basket. He ended shooting 20/24 from within the arc. Embiid scored more than half of his team’s points, while the only other Sixers in double figures were James Harden with 20 and PJ Tucker with 11. Tucker was silent for most of the night before hitting two massive threes late in the 4th to (seemingly) put the game away.
It’s frustrating the Celtics couldn’t clinch the two seed tonight, but their team performance should inspire confidence heading into the playoffs. Boston will look to handle business tomorrow against the Toronto Raptors.