With a 102-94 victory in Game 3 on Friday night, the Boston Celtics took a commanding 3-0 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers. While Jayson Tatum led the way for the Celtics during their first two wins, it was Kemba Walker who carried the load for Boston in Game 3. Walker hit big shot after big shot for Boston, and he finished the game with 24 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Jaylen Brown added 21 points for the Celtics, while Tatum was held to just 15.
As he has all series, Joel Embiid led the way for the 76ers. He finished the game with 30 points and 13 rebounds. Embiid got a bit of help from Philadelphia’s backcourt, as Shake Milton and Josh Richardson both scored 17 points. Ultimately though it wasn’t enough, and the Sixers now find themselves just one loss away from their season coming to an end. For what it’s worth, no team in NBA history has ever come back from being down 3-0 to go on and win the series. Philadelphia will have an opportunity to be the first, but history clearly isn’t on their side.
Game 4 between the Celtics and 76ers is set to tip on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. You can find three main takeaways from Game 3 below:
1. Embiid is in desperate need of help
Aside from a couple of late turnovers in Game 3, Embiid has had a great series for the Sixers. He’s averaging 30 points and 13 rebounds per game this far, but he hasn’t had nearly enough help. With Ben Simmons sidelined, the Sixers need all of their other key contributors to step up, and it just hasn’t happened. The Sixers signed both Tobias Harris and Al Horford to massive contracts this past offseason, and neither has been able to deliver at all in relation to how much they’re being paid. Horford has combined for a paltry 16 points through the first three games, and Harris, a player that was supposed to be a go-to scorer for Philadelphia, has scored a total of 43. It’s already going to be an uphill battle, and the Sixers will have absolutely no chance moving forward in this series if they don’t get much more production from the other guys around Embiid that are supposed to be key contributors.
2. Celtics continue to dominate the battle of the benches
After the Celtics lost forward Gordon Hayward for the rest of the series in Game 1, it seemed like Boston’s depth, or lack thereof, could become an issue. However, it hasn’t been an issue. Boston’s bench doubled up Philadelphia’s bench in point production 41-20 in Game 2, and the same thing happened in Game 3. Led by Grant Williams (seven points) and Enes Kanter (six points), Boston’s bench again doubled up on Philly’s 20-9. In fact, Alec Burks was the only reserve player that scored for the Sixers on Friday night, and that just isn’t going to get the job done for Philadelphia.
3. History is on the Celtics’ side
If the Celtics ultimately go on to lose this matchup, they will be the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. Based on the first three games though, the Celtics don’t have much to worry about. They’ve been thoroughly outplaying the Sixers on both ends of the floor, and it’s become increasingly clear just how much the Sixers miss Ben Simmons. Without him, they’ve struggled to generate open looks on the offensive end or to get stops defensively. The Sixers have kept it close in two out of the three losses, so it’s possible that they could come away with a win in Game 4, but to say that it’s extremely unlikely that the Sixers will win three straight is an understatement. There’s almost no chance of that happening. If the Celtics do go on to win the series, they will likely match up with the defending-champion Toronto Raptors in the second round, The Raptors are currently up 3-0 in their series against the Brooklyn Nets.