Joel Embiid was physical on both ends of the court, getting to the rim on one end and protecting it on the other. Philadelphia’s defensive rotations were much sharper, and players had much more intent when they switched to their new man. It was the best effort Philadelphia gave since it arrived in the bubble.
Boston still closed the game on a 10-0 run to pull away from Philadelphia for a 102-94 win that gives them a commanding 3-0 series lead.
That run started with Marcus Smart making an “I wish that guy were on my team” read and steal, getting the ball ahead to Jaylen Brown for the and-1.
Boston ended up with 24 points from Walker, 21 from Brown, and 15 from Jayson Tatum. They struggled at points against the length and activity of the 76ers defense and only had an offensive rating of 101 and a 52.3 team shooting percentage (both way down from previous games).
With Ben Simmons sidelined, Philadelphia did not have the shot creators or shooters on the roster to take advantage of Boston.
“It’s tough. It sucks. Man, it sucks when you play super hard and do everything possible to win games and you come up short,” Joel Embiid said after the game, in which he had 30 points and 13 rebounds. “No one wants to be in this position.”
Philly shot 9-of-39 (23.1%) from three for the game, but they didn’t just miss from three. Some of that is a strong Celtics defense, but a lot of that is just the 76ers missing shots. Here is the Sixers shot chart from the game.
What kind of effort we get from Philly — with no home fans to lift them up and the result of a loss is they get to leave the bubble and go home — in Game 4 Sunday will be interesting.
Sixers coach Brett Brown will pay the price for this team’s shortcomings, and he is not blameless in all this. But Philadelphia’s problems in this game, and for the season, can be traced back to the decision by GM Elton Brand and management to play contrarian. The entire NBA is going smaller and putting more shooting and more ball handlers on the floor together, Philly went for size and defense.
Boston has shooting, it has multiple ball handlers, and it now has a 3-0 lead.