June 7, 2023

Frustration in Philly — Sixers-Celtics Game 3 Recap


Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, and P.J. Tucker, right, battle for the ball with Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown, center, during the second half of Game 3 in an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Friday, May 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

When a series is tied 1-1, the loser of game 3 goes on to win the series just 27% of the time. That is the deficit the 76ers now face after dropping game 3 to the Celtics last night, 114-102.

A night that began with so much promise after Joel Embiid was given the Michael Jordan trophy as a result of being named the NBA MVP. Embiid gave an emotional speech that certainly fired up the sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd.

From there, however, there was not much to cheer about. Let’s take a look back at a frustrating game 3 loss for the Sixers.

Where’s the Hustle?

Just like in game 2, the Sixers did not seem to come into this game ready to win. They were outhustled all night, which resulted in a bunch of extra looks for the Celtics.

In the playoffs, every loose ball, every rebound, and every pass matters, and if you do not play with a sense of urgency, no matter the score or point in the series, it becomes very hard to win.

The entire game, the Sixers were constantly outworked by the Celtics, and it seemed the C’s were getting to every loose ball and getting more opportunities as a result.

To be honest, it seemed the only players who really cared out there last night were Embiid, who finished with 30 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks, and PJ Tucker, who hit 3 corner triples and was basically the only Sixer who was consistently fighting for loose balls.

Turnovers also doomed the Sixers. As a team, they committed 14 turnovers, including 7 in the first quarter. This led to a 15-7 advantage in fast break points for the Celtics. In the playoffs, every possession is so critical, and you have to do whatever is possible to at least give yourself a chance to score every time down the court.

Harden Disasterclass

At times, I thought Ben Simmons grew a beard and put on a #1 Sixers uniform last night, that is how bad James Harden played.

Harden just seemed scared out there for most of the night. There were at least 3 or 4 times that he passed up a wide-open shot from inside the paint, and instead kicked out or turned it over.

Harden finished the night with 16 points and 11 assists, which does not sound so bad, but factor in his 3 for 14 shooting and 5 turnovers, and you start to get the real story. Since his 45-point outburst in game 1 of this series, Harden has seemed way out of sync. He has now shot an abysmal 5 for 28 over the last 2 games and has been very hesitant to take wide-open shots.

While Embiid is the MVP, he cannot do it all by himself. The Sixers need Harden to step up and be the scorer and facilitator that he has been all season.

While we’re on the subject of Embiid needing help, we cannot ignore the night that Maxey had either. Tyrese scored just 13 points on 25% shooting in 40 minutes in game 3. Couple that with the fact that Maxey has struggled significantly on the defensive end as well. While the Celtics do not provide the most favorable matchup for the young guard, if he wants that $200 million extension this offseason, then he will have to step up when the lights shine the brightest.

What’s Next

Game 4 of this series will tip off tomorrow at 3:30 at the Wells Fargo Center. Despite how the last 2 games have gone, the Sixers still have a chance to even up this series and force a pivotal game 5 in Boston on Tuesday. It should also be noted that even with the Sixers playing as poorly as they did yesterday, they were still in the game for all 48 minutes. This Celtics team is beatable, but the Sixers need to turn it around fast because they will not stand a chance if they put forth the effort of the previous 2 games again.

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