Boston Celtics, NBA Playoffs, Philadelphia 76ers

Celtics push 76ers to the brink in tightly-contested Game 3

After going down 2-0 to the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia Sixers absolutely had to win tonight’s game to make it a series. They failed to do so

In a must-win game three against the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers fought hard, but it was ultimately not enough as they lost 102-94, falling behind three games to none, making the upcoming end of their season sometime in the coming games a mere formality.

In spite of the relatively high score, it was an ugly game as the Sixers shot less than 30 percent from the field while the Celtics shot better, but still not exactly well at 41 percent. The two teams also combined to shoot 58 free throws, attesting to the intensity, and occasional sloppiness, on both sides throughout. Joel Embiid played well in defeat, posting 30 points and 13 rebounds, but only shot 35 percent himself, which was still somehow the best of any Sixer tonight. It will be interesting to see what changes, if any, Brett Brown tries to institute for game four on Sunday in the hopes of extending Philadelphia’s season, but at this point, any strategic innovations will likely be too little, too late.

Few expected the Sixers, sans Ben Simmons, to make much noise this postseason, and the Celtics have taken advantage of such deficiencies.

Most Valuable Player: Kemba Walker

Jayson Tatum had been the Celtics best player through the first two games of the postseason, but tonight, he racked up three fouls by the end of the first quarter and played less than nine minutes the entire first half. In his absence, Kemba Walker stepped up and filled the vacuum left by his absence.

Walker scored 24 points and was the only one of the Celtics’ three stars to shoot over forty percent for the game as he went 10 of 20 from the field. He also added eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals. It was a nice reminder that he is still capable of taking over games as needed, something that should bring Celtics fans no small amount of comfort moving forward through the rest of the playoffs.

Least Valuable Player(s): The Sixers bench

Not a single member of the Sixers bench scored a point tonight apart from Alec Burks who put up nine, but still needed 10 shots to get there. Collectively, the bench shot a horrendous 3-16. On a night when the Sixers were struggling tremendously to get any sort of offensive flow, their inability to contribute anything really hurt them.

Matisse Thybulle even managed to play nine minutes without registering any statistics at all except for one missed field goal and a turnover. The Sixers’ bench has been an issue for them throughout the year and while they are not necessarily the reason the team lost the game tonight, in a contest this close, they could have easily been the reason the Sixers won and they failed to take advantage.

Coaching strategy: Starting Al Horford

All season long, the Sixers have not really not known what to do with Al Horford and tonight, after having him come off the bench in Game 2, Brett Brown decided to reinsert him into the starting lineup in place of Matisse Thybulle.

Horford did not rise to the challenge, often looking out of place and unsure of his role. He struggled to keep up with the Celtics’ perimeter players defensively and failed to stretch the floor or provide any scoring punch, going 0-2 from deep and 1-5 overall. In theory, it may have been wiser to have him come of the bench again where his role would have been more clearly defined than it would be with him playing alongside Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris.

Figuring out what to do with Horford and the logjam in the frontcourt has been a season-long problem for the Sixers, one they never figured out, one they have now run out of time to solve.

Next: Can Joel Embiid outplay the Boston Celtics for an entire playoff series?

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