Tim BontempsESPN5 minutes of reading
PHILADELPHIA — Later James Harden had a second straight terrible shooting night — the Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Boston Celtics for the second straight game in the Eastern Conference semifinals — and Joel Embiid sent a message to his point guard heading into Game 4.
“I mean, you talk to him, keep telling him to keep shooting,” Embiid said after Boston’s 114-102 Game 3 win. “Just be aggressive. Can’t be too high, can’t be too low. Some nights you’re going to make a lot of other shots, a lot harder, and some nights you’re not going to make them. So it’s about finding other ways to influence the game.”
Unfortunately, Harden’s impact in Game 3 was negative for the 76ers. After putting together the single-best playoff game of his career by tying his career high with 45 points in a Game 1 win over Philadelphia, he followed that performance up by going 2-for-14 in Game 2 on Wednesday night and 3-for-14 in Friday night’s loss at Wells Fargo Center. Exhibition.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, 5-for-28 shooting in those two games was the worst output of Harden’s career over that span.
When asked after the game if Boston did anything to slow him down after his Game 1 performance, Harden simply said, “No.”
Celtics guard Malcolm Brockton disagreed, saying the Celtics tried to slow down Harden, with Jaylen Brown particularly effective in guarding him.
“We’re making it tough on him on purpose,” Brockton said. “He came out in Game 1 and was amazing in winning them. We don’t want him to play like that anymore, so we have to be as physical as we can with him. Force him into tough shots, make him uncomfortable and really learn to compete.”
Sixers coach Doc Rivers has repeatedly said Philadelphia needs to play with more power. He believed the team had avenues to attack but failed to capitalize on them. On several occasions, Harden entered the paint, but looked unsuspecting — often leading to turnovers
“A couple of times I thought we came out and I thought we had the lane,” Rivers said. “That’s what we talked about, aggressively, getting into the paint with speed, making plays if they come, and I don’t think we did that.”
That was especially true in the first half, when Harden committed five of Philadelphia’s 11 turnovers in the first half, leading the Celtics to a 57-50 halftime lead they would never relinquish.
“I have to see the game,” Harden said, when asked about those drives inside, “but I’m very good with basketball instincts. I know when to score, I know when to pass.
“So I’m sure a lot of them are perfect play.”
Harden’s second straight rough night overshadowed a similar clunker from fellow guard Tyrus Maxey, who finished the game on 4-for-16 shooting and they combined to go 2-for-14 on 2-point shots. As a team, the 76ers shot just 15-of-41 (36.6%) on 2-point shots on the night. Remove Embiid’s shots from that number, and it drops to an abysmal 7-of-24 (29.2%).
The Celtics had seven blocked shots — including three by Robert Williams III — and Embiid said what was apparent to the naked eye during the game: Challenging the Celtics’ length at the rim repeatedly wasn’t the best way to approach. game.
“You obviously have to be aggressive and still pick his spots,” Embiid said of Maxey. “Robert Williams is very good at defending and blocking shots, so you can drive him carelessly. You can do some of that, but as athletic as he is, he’s going to block it or change the shot. I think you are. You have to stay calm and play at your best pace instead of attacking and going fast. .I think that’s really an issue. But like I said, same thing [Maxey]. No panic. We have to settle down.”
Embiid and Rivers also pointed to Boston winning 50-50 balls and getting several timely offensive rebounds — four of which came in the fourth quarter, when the Celtics fended off some 76ers challenges with timely 3-point shots, including twice Brockton later faked out Horford defenders before draining triples. .
In the end, Embiid said it’s simply about playing well and the 76ers will have to do that in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon if they want to stay alive in the series.
Embiid, who finished with 30 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 blocks in 39 minutes, accepted the NBA’s MVP award in an emotional pregame ceremony. Arthur ran to him. “I have to do my job. All the guys, everybody knows their role, they have to do their job. The players have to show up. Obviously, you can make any changes you want. But if the players don’t execute, they don’t show up and we don’t make the shots, that’s on us. has
“I’ve got to be better. We’ve all got to be better. We haven’t been good the last two games. No rush… just the little things. We’re defending them well in the half court. . . it’s loose ball situations, offensive rebounds, and they’re knocking down 3s.” Or they score from it, and that changes everything.”