Celtics Wrap: Defense Steps Up In Final Minutes Of Game 3 Win Vs. 76ers

The Celtics now hold a 3-0 advantage in the seven-game series

by Sean T. McGuire

August 21, 2020

The Boston Celtics pulled out a win down the stretch due to the play on the defensive end of the floor.

In a back-and-forth Game 3 against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night, the Celtics escaped with a 102-94 win. Boston now leads the best-of-seven series 3-0.

And the Celtics did so with a 10-0 run over the final 2:14. Marcus Smart had a crunch-time steal, Jayson Tatum had a crucial block on Joel Embiid and the C’s pulled it out.

Philadelphia did, however, completely dominate Boston on the glass. They held a 57-45 advantage in total rebounds with a 20-3 (!!) edge in offensive boards.

Kemba Walker led the Celtics with 24 points, Jaylen Brown added 21 and Tatum finished with 15 after a roughing start due to foul trouble and shooting woes. Smart also added double figures with 14 points, a game-high eight rebounds and three steals.

Here’s how it all went down:

The Celtics forced the 76ers to shoot 6-for-25 from the field, but still held a mere two-point lead, 26-24. It came after Philly converted 11 of its 15 free throws with Embiid (7-for-9 at the line) scoring 12 points.

Walker led the C’s with eight points while Brown had seven. Tatum struggled by shooting 2-for-7 from the floor (five points) with three fouls. Boston shot 9-for-24 from the floor.

The Celtics maintained their two-point lead from the first quarter, possessing a 51-49 advantage at half.

Boston put together a 11-3 run midway through the quarter, but Embiid’s 22 first-half points and 10 rebounds never allowed the 76ers (10 offensive rebounds) to trail by more than nine points in the half.

The Celtics went into the break shooting 38 percent from the field while Philadelphia shot just shy of 33 percent from the floor. Brown, who had a few impressive dunks, led the C’s with 13 first-half points while Walker added 10. Tatum played just eight minutes before the intermission.

Smart, in addition to his defense, completed a traditional three-point play.

Despite the Sixers holding the clear advantage on the glass (16-3 offensive rebounds through three) and second chance points (16-7), Walker helped the C’s take a 76-72 lead into the fourth. Boston led by as many as seven points in the quarter.

The All-Star guard scored 10 of his then 20 points in the third, also helping the C’s increase their shooting percentage to 40 percent from the field.

And the Celtics needed it as Tatum struggled to find much of an offensive rhythm (4-14 through three quarters).

The Celtics extended their lead to seven points with Tatum draining a 3-pointer and converting a layup after a strong move on the low post.

The Sixers, though, cut that deficit to one point midway through the period. Philly took a 90-89 lead with 4:30 left before taking a lead 94-92 lead with 2:14 remaining.

Chaos ensued down the stretch. Daniel Theis fouled out with three minutes left, the Celtics turned the ball over on a shot clock violation, a steal by Smart led to a three-point play for Brown, the Sixers were called for a clear path four, which resulted in a Tatum free throw and Walker pull-up jumper to give Boston a four-point lead in the final minute.

Smart later added a pair of free throws to give the Celtics a 100-94 lead with 36 ticks left, which ultimately put the game away.

And arguably the play of the game…

The Celtics will look for the sweep against the 76ers with Game 4 scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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