To put it simply, the Boston Celtics just find ways to win basketball games.
They did it yet again Saturday night, pulling off an incredible 101-98 overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center.
Boston received incredible efforts from its youngest player and elder statesman. Jayson Tatum delivered a game-high 24 points, while Al Horford contributed 13, all of which coming in the second half and overtime. And in the end, it was the guile and savvy of the Celtics that preserved the road win.
With the victory, Boston takes a commanding 3-0 lead in the second-round NBA playoff series.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
The 76ers didn’t exactly come out of the gates red-hot, but luckily for the home team, the Celtics’ offense was underwhelming as well. After a back-and-forth first quarter in which both teams struggled from the field, Philly claimed a 20-19 lead heading into the second frame.
Tatum carried the load on offense for Boston early on, notching nine first-quarter points on 4-of-5 shooting. But despite the rookie’s surge, as well as the Sixers shooting 34 percent in the first, Philadelphia went on a 12-0 run late in the quarter to prevent Boston from taking a double-digit lead.
GAME OF RUNS
The Celtics looked as though they were going to take a commanding lead into halftime, but the Sixers flipped the script in the latter half of the second. After Boston ripped off 16-5 run to start the quarter, Philadelphia closed the frame with a 23-10 run of their own to take a 51-48 lead into the break.
The Sixers used the 3-point shot to vault their rally, as they knocked down six shots from beyond the arc in the quarter, including two apiece from Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric. Boston received a strong frame from Rozier, who contributed seven points after being held scoreless in the first quarter. The C’s offense did take a hit in the second, as they played most of the quarter without Tatum, who picked up his third personal foul with 8:23 left to go in the frame.
The Celtics had a chance to retake control of the game in the third, but they were unable to close out the quarter strong. After a terrific start to the frame, the C’s failed to score in the final 3:29 of the third and in turn took a slim 69-68 lead into the final quarter.
Rozier continued to roll for the green, scoring nearly half of the Celtics’ third-quarter points with nine. Philadelphia failed to find a rhythm until the latter stage of the third thanks in large part to five turnovers in the quarter. Not to mention, the Sixers shot a lowly 33 percent from the field in the third.
It was a back-and-forth affair in the fourth quarter, but there weren’t many baskets being traded. Both teams struggled mightily from the floor in the final frame, as there were only a combined 10 shots made through the first eight minutes of the fourth. Philadelphia appeared to give the game away after a lazy pass produced a Brown go-ahead layup with 1.8 seconds remaining, but Marco Bellineli sent the game into overtime with a buzzer-beating baseline jumper to knot the score at 89-89.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
The 76ers jumped out to a quick five-point lead in the first minute-plus overtime, but the C’s quickly got back in the game thanks to a basket from Horford and two from Tatum. Philadelphia had a chance to create separation in the final 20 seconds with a one-point lead, but Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons helped keep Boston’s window wide open after they each missed short-range put-backs on the same possession.
The Celtics responded with a Horford basket to take a 99-98 lead with 5.5 seconds remaining. Horford came up clutch yet again on the ensuing 76ers possession, stealing Simmons’ inbound pass and sinking both free throws. Despite having a good look as time expired, Bellinelli bricked out a potential game-tying 3-pointer to seal the C’s win.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Brad Stevens continues to be a coaching wizard, especially in plays after timeouts.
The Celtic and 76ers will resume the series Monday night for Game 4. Tip-off from Wells Fargo Center is set for 6 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports