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Sixers vs. Celtics: Joel Embiid sets Boston on fire with 52 points sports

Joel Embiid required just 25 field goal attempts Tuesday night to record the fifth 50-point game of his career.

In a performance that can only boost his already strong MVP case, Embiid scored 52 points on 20-of-25 shooting in a 103-101 Sixers win over the Celtics at Wells Fargo Center. Embiid also had 13 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.

Jayson Tatum missed a baseline jumper on Boston’s final possession. He was the second Celtics scorer with 19 points. Derrick White had 26.

The Sixers’ victory was their 52nd with three games remaining in the regular season. He clinched a top-three berth in the Eastern Conference.

On the Celtics’ first straight night, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams III, Payton Pritchard and Danilo Gallinari were all injured.

The Sixers will play their last home game of the regular season on Thursday night against the Heat. Here are observations on Tuesday’s win and Embiid’s sensational performance:

Embiid owns the first

The Celtics opened with Grant Williams on Embiid and the Sixers were happy to target that matchup, feeding their All-Star center often into the elbow.

Embiid was ready early on, showing great sense of when help defenders were about to swarm. He was fouled on a jumper, made another and also scored on Williams in the post. With a nimble walk and a layup, Embiid gave the Sixers a 12-5 lead. He scored 18 of the Sixers’ 28 points in the first quarter, going 6-of-7 from the field and 6-of-7 from free throws. Embiid also made an impressive plate to Jalen McDaniels for a corner three that showed his body control and a variety of options even when he’s driving downhill or in the middle of a move.

Unlike Sunday night in Milwaukee, the Sixers’ opponent got off to a cold start; Boston started 1-for-9 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range. However, the Sixers eventually paid for some defensive errors and the Celtics looked more threatening in transition. They took a 19-18 lead on a 3-pointer by Malcolm Brogdon.

The Sixers ultimately didn’t let Embiid’s exceptional 12 minutes go to waste. Boston struggled to score in a lineup with Tatum and four second-unit players, Embiid made an off-balance and layup, and the Sixers led by six points after one period.

Lack of Support Offense

Almost everything for the Sixers’ offense went through Harden and Embiid in the first half.

They combined to score 39 of the Sixers’ 53 points before intermission, as well as seven of their nine assists.

The Sixers’ supporting cast got off to a shakier start. The Celtics scored the first seven points of the second quarter, taking advantage of a couple of errors by Harden. Paul Reed’s hustle was positive again, though he blew a transition layup opportunity. Still, the Sixers got five points off of two offensive rebounds from Reed, and the 23-year-old also impressively denied a jumper from Brogdon. With Reed on the floor, there’s a lot less reason to worry about a switch-everything defensive approach than there is with your typical backup big man.

Tyrese Maxey began the evening wearing a red headband, though she soon ditched it. The new look didn’t improve Maxey’s luck against Boston. A 1-for-6 first half dropped Maxey to 8 of his last 30 from the floor against the Celtics. Early in the third quarter, Maxey Pump faked a three and then was whistled for an offensive foul as he tried to find a good look on the dribble.

In the first six minutes of the third, Tobias Harris missed two 3-pointers and two layups. Regardless of the opposition, it’s clearly important to the Sixers in the playoffs that Harris not hesitate on open three-point looks and be cooperative when defenses force the ball out of the hands of Sixers stars.

Embiid had answer after answer as Boston came close to pulling past the Sixers in the third. His midrange jumpers were money and he always picked the right spots to shoot. Still, it’s pretty hard to build a meaningful lead when almost everyone else is failing. Georges Niang got a decent shot after a double team on Embiid late in the third, but missed and fell to 0-for-3 from the floor. De’Anthony Melton went 0-for-4.

Despite all that, having Embiid on the floor is sometimes enough. After the Celtics cut their deficit to 68-67, he unleashed a ferocious jab on Luke Kornet. A block by Jalen McDaniels and a save by Danuel House Jr. late in the quarter on Brogdon helped the Sixers maintain their lead going into the fourth.

tucker hour

The Sixers’ lead didn’t last long.

Once again, the Sixers’ lineup of Harden and four bench players had a rough season. Boston got a 77-74 lead on 3-pointers by White and Brogdon, prompting Sixers head coach Doc Rivers to call a timeout.

Harris replaced Niang and McDaniels hit three after timeout, but the Sixers still seemed extremely dependent on Embiid’s greatness to win. They ended a poor possession with Harden facing a double team and his jumper blocked by White as the shot clock expired.

Embiid returned and promptly sank two jumpers, tying the score at 81 apiece. Even when he was hotly contested, he was really automatic from around the foul line.

While Embiid seemed capable of doing whatever he wanted, it was inevitable that he would occasionally have to give up the ball. When he did, PJ Tucker delivered.

Tucker hit two clutch 3-pointers from the left corner and one from the right. Until Friday’s win over the Raptors, Tucker hadn’t made more than two 3-pointers in a game all season. He now he has done it in back-to-back home games. Everyone was massive on Tuesday night to ensure Embiid’s incredible performance was turned into a victory.

However, the Sixers were far from perfect in the closing seconds. After Tucker conceded a three to White, Embiid was fouled offensively on the next inbounds play. The Sixers were relieved to reach the finish line.



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