The Boston Celtics picked their spots double teaming Philadelphia 76ers star big man Joel Embiid throughout Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday, but Jaylen Brown chose the wrong moment to do so.
With the Celtics leading by two with less than 30 seconds left in overtime, the 76ers in-bounded the ball to the league’s MVP, who backed down Jayson Tatum into the paint. Brown came over to help even though an Embiid basket from his position on the floor would only tie the game.
A 3-pointer would be more consequential in the situation, which is what the 76ers got as Brown’s decision to go into the paint left James Harden wide open from beyond the arc. Brown couldn’t recover in time and Harden hit the biggest shot of his 42-point performance, which lifted the 76ers to a 116-115 victory at Wells Fargo Center.
In the aftermath of a narrow defeat, Brown owned up to the mistake he made on the pivotal play.
“Just a bad read. That’s it,” Brown told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston postgame coverage. “It’s a gamble at the wrong time and big shot by James Harden. That’s my fault. I took full accountability. Just a bad read.”
Harden torched the Celtics throughout the contest, delivering a monster showing after hitting just 5-of-28 shots over the previous two games. It’s clear the Celtics didn’t want Harden to get the ball again on what ended up being Philadelphia’s final possession but when Brown left Harden all alone, it made everything very easy on the 10-time All-Star.
“I throw it into Joel it’s supposed to be a dribble handoff or he dribble handoff with me,” Harden told reporters, per league-provided video. “But Jaylen Brown was kind of denying me. So, I didn’t want to fight and fight and the clock run down. So, I just gave Joel space to do what he did. He got so far in the paint that I felt like Jaylen Brown wanted to go help. So, Joel made an unbelievable pass and catch and shoot.”