James Harden beats 76ers past Celtics in Game 1: Philadelphia shines without Joel Embiid

The 76ers defeated the Boston Celtics 119-115 on the road in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Monday. Here’s what you should know:

  • James Harden equaled his playoff highs with 45 points, six rebounds and two steals.
  • Celtics All-Star Jason Tatum scored 39 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
  • 76ers star Joel Embiid missed Game 1 with a right knee injury.
  • Philadelphia leads 1-0 in the series.

the athleteInstant Analysis:

Harden dazzles in the park

With Embiid watching from the sidelines, Harden wasn’t stellar in Game 1 at the TD Garden. Against the heavily favored Celtics, Harden scored 45 points on 17 of 30 shooting. And with the Sixers trailing once, he put them ahead for good with a contested three-pointer at the top of the key in a loner against Al Horford.

Harden also finished with six assists and only three turnovers, despite having the ball in his hands the entire game. Harden’s match record has been highly scrutinized, and perhaps rightly so. But with Philadelphia in a tough spot needing to steal Boston’s win in the worst way, Harden put together a masterpiece. – Hoffman

Six shine without Embiid

The Sixers went 13-5 without Joel Embiid this season, another example of a team that was resilient when downsizing. Boston went 17-20 from the field in the first quarter, shooting punt after punt and hitting the Sixers downfield in transition. But there have been great performances up and down the Sixers roster.

Tyrese Maxey’s 3-pointer didn’t fall, but after being shut out by Boston all season, he finished with 26 points. De’Anthony Melton went 5 of 6 from outside the arc and made some crucial defensive plays. Tobias Harris, a solid starter, finished with 18 points on 8 of 16 shooting. Paul Reed scored 10 points and 13 rebounds in place of Embiid, including four massive free throws down the stretch.

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The Sixers got enough stops down the stretch, including a steal of a “pick-six” by Maxey that gave them the lead in the final minute. Doc Rivers has done well with the Sixers during his 3-year tenure in Philly, but given the opponent and the circumstances, this was his best win yet. – Hoffman

Evaluate how the Celtics defended Harden

Should the Celtics have doubled Harden more? Didn’t they multiply it enough? It depends on who you ask after the match. Joe Mazzola had his reasons for not doubling down on Harden on the game winner who buried it right over Horford, but they lost to the injured but ultimately ferocious Sixers. This was the kind of game that the Celtics knew would be an uphill battle. They’ve spent the last few days saying the Sixers will come out shooting, increasing speed and pressing without an MVP, but they still can’t hold it. – Weiss

Celtics Silver Liners

The silver lining with this loss is that it took one of the best games of Harden’s career to blow it up. The rotten gist is that Maxi had a horrible shooting night and still had 26 points and the key steal to turn the game around in the last minute. Tatum was fantastic, Malcolm Brogdon carried the offense at times, and Marcus Smart made some phenomenal plays down the stretch. Then they threw it away in the end just because the Sixers didn’t relent. – Weiss

background story

Harden scored 15 of his 45 points in the fourth quarter to lead his team to victory without a MVP candidate, leading the 76ers 12-4 to close out the game. Maxey joined Harden as the only other leading scorer with 20 points for Philadelphia, as he had 26 points and four fumbles of his own.

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Jaylen Brown added an impressive performance, scoring 23 points, six rebounds and four assists on 8-of-10 shooting. Sixth Man of 2023 Brogdon scored 20 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

Boston will host game two on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.

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(Photo: Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

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