By MyFM's Jake Archer - It's about time the NBA world starts respecting the Boston Celtics. After picking up two impressive wins at home to start the series, the C's were still nine point underdogs in Game 3 yesterday. Everyone was still infatuated with "The Process" and the talent of Joel Embiid/Ben Simmons. Well, Boston showed up in Philadelphia and made yet another statement. They are for real and they are here to win.
Honestly, after winning two at home I was pretty pumped but I also knew that we'd really have to wait and see if they could take a game on the road. The last series with Milwaukee proved that. So with the fact that Philly has been so good, I honestly was expecting a big game from them in their building. I wouldn't even have held it against the Celtics if they played bad and dropped one. Instead, they had the killer instinct and showed up on the road ready to step on the neck.
The Sixers tried to pull out all the stops to get something going at home. Super Bowl MVP and Patriots nightmare Nick Foles was in attendance to do the really dumb "ring the bell" thing that they do before the game. I'm not sure how hitting a tiny bell with a tiny hammer is supposed to fire people up, but hey, good for them. There were stars sitting courtside and the crowd was rabid. Philadelphia was ready for a fight but they did not know how tough the Celtics would be.
In the first half, things actually went pretty well for Philly. Ben Simmons made sure to score more than one point by driving and converting an early layup, and the team took a one-point lead into the second. After Boston pulled out in front by 10, Philly responded and kicked it into high gear. With some big plays on both ends, the Sixers had grabbed the momentum and went to halftime up 51-48.
Boston was hanging around though, and that was not good news for the home team. They needed to take control because this Celtics team does not go away easily and they make winning plays in tight ballgames. The C’s hadn’t shot all that well and only got to the line for four free throws in the first half. In the third, they climbed back to take a one point lead going into the final quarter. This was going to be a close one.
With the game tied at 87 in the final minute, the Sixers had the ball. JJ Redick made a bad pass and Terry Rozier sprinted to grab the loose ball and start the breakaway. He didn’t have a clear path to the hoop but he did have Jaylen Brown streaking down the court on the other side, so he dished it off for the go-ahead layup. Philly would have the ball with just seconds left to either tie it or win it. Marco Belinelli, who’s actually been pretty decent in the series so far, caught the ball as he headed to the corner in front of his team’s bench and chucked up an off-balance shot. The ball fell through the hoop for a buzzer beater and the confetti cannons blasted off. The arena was going wild and the Sixers were jumping around like they won the game. Not so fast, my friends.
Belinelli’s shot wasn’t actually a three-pointer, so all he did was tie it and send the game to overtime. The confetti guy was a little premature with his celebration and now the game was delayed for a bit longer because they had to clean the court up before heading to OT. It’s not only embarrassing to shoot off confetti after a second round Game 3 win, but it’s even worse when you didn’t actually win yet. Ironically, that guy was wearing a shirt that said “Breaking News: I Don’t Care.”
Now the two teams were headed to OT and Philly was, luckily, still alive. The end of game miscues had really shown that they didn’t deserve to win this thing. They started out well in the extra period as Belinelli and Redick banged back-to-back shots to go up five. Boston stayed in it though and with 5.5 seconds left, they were down just one. Out of a timeout, the ball went to Marcus Morris in the corner. It looked like Morris would be the one taking the big shot, but instead Brad Stevens called another timeout. I think he wanted to take a look at how Philly was defending so that he could combat it. It was a Belichickian move.
Stevens is obviously known as one of, if not the best coach in the NBA. One of his best talents though, is drawing up ATO (after time out) plays. In this instance, it was another masterful and brilliant look that he called for. The inbound was a lob up over the head of the defender in the post, to get the ball to Al Horford. Big Al went up and layed it in to give the Celtics the 99-98 advantage. It was a huge moment, but Boston still needed to play some defense to seal the deal. The Sixers had the ball last with a do-or-die chance. Simmons brought the ball up, and then threw it away as Horford stepped in and stole the pass. The big man went down the court and was fouled which set up the free throws to give Boston a 101-98 win. Not only did they take the W, but they took a commanding 3-0 series lead and the respect of everyone.
Philadelphia was dead. Boston had just demoralized them for a third straight game and embarrassed them in the process (pun intended). Jayson Tatum was again the biggest star on the court as the rookie scored 24 points to lead the C’s. Horford, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier all ended up in double digits as well. Philly had Embiid, Simmons, Dario Saric, Redick, Belinelli and Ersan Illyasova in double figures, but it wasn’t enough.
After the game the Sixers were complaining about the officiating and avoiding taking accountability for the loss. Boston is staying focused and saying how they are ready to take care of business on Monday in Game 4. They’ll have a chance to break the brooms out and sweep Philly, and I can’t wait to see how it goes. Tip off is scheduled for 6 p.m. Be sure to come back here for your updates!