The Celtics had their backs against the wall after a Game 5 loss at home. The Sixers headed back to Philadelphia with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to eliminate Boston at a raucous Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers even held multiple leads in the fourth quarter of Game 6, but something clicked for Jayson Tatum and the Celtics star took over. That continued into a historic 51-point Game 7 effort from Tatum while Sixers stars Joel Embiid and James Harden combined for just 24 points.
Embiid said, “Me and James, we can’t win alone,” after the game in a quote that was taken a bit out of context, but it provided for plenty of strong commentary about the MVP.
Andy Hart and Nick “Fitzy” Stevens of the Audacy Original Podcast “Breaking Boston” talked about the Celtics’ big win and what it meant for both Philadelphia and Boston.
“Well he can’t do it himself,” Hart cracked (7:18 in player above). “Talk about unlikeable. Come out postgame and say ‘I can’t do it myself’? What a dink. No wonder they’re a bad team. No wonder they can’t close. The problem is that’s the modern athlete. That’s the modern basketball player.”
In fairness to Embiid, his answer came in response to a question about the team’s future with Harden, who has a player option this summer and could return to Houston.
Nevertheless, this series went as it usually does for the Sixers in the second round. Despite a fourth-quarter lead at home in Game 6 and a third-quarter tie in Game 7, the Sixers fell completely flat.
“Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid and James Harden are who we thought they were, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are who we hoped they were,” Hart continued. “They became who we hoped they were and now this is back-to-back years where they say, ‘We’ll go down 3-2 against a good basketball team. We’ll go on the road and do what we need to do to save the series and we’ll win the series because that’s who we are.’”
Embiid led the league with 33.1 points per game in the regular season but the big man was held to just 23.7 PPG in the playoffs, including 25.5 PPG in six second-round games.
Harden, whose 45-point effort powered an Embiid-less Sixers team to a win in Game 1, came up with just 39 points in the final three games of the series: 17, 13, and nine.
The Celtics were the odds-on favorites to win the NBA Championship for most of the playoffs and they once again hold that honor after defeating the Sixers. Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat stand in their way in the Eastern Conference Finals.
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