THE Philadelphia 76ers are now one game away from elimination.
In what was one of the most exciting games of the NBA Playoffs, Ben Simmons and his young side committed some crucial errors in crunch-time, abandoning their lead and allowing the Boston Celtics to steal a key win.
The Celtics picked up the 101-98 victory in overtime, taking a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. No team has ever come back and won after trailing 3-0 in any NBA postseason.
Simmons rebounded from his poor Game 2, posting 16 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in the third game, but committed an untimely turnover in the dying seconds.
“We’re very frustrated, but at the same time we have to look at the next game,” Simmons said.
“I have a lot of growing to do.
“This is the first season I have played, the first I have played in the playoffs and I’m learning a lot.”
Al Horford led the way for the Celtics with 13 points, six rebounds, and three blocks, including the go-ahead basket — and ensuing free throws — that sealed the win for his team. Australian big-man, Aron Baynes, finished with seven points, 10 rebounds, and three assists for the Celtics, and continued to play admirable defence on Joel Embiid throughout the game.
With the game tied at 87-87 — 24.0 second left in regulation — J.J. Redick turned it over, leadig to a Jaylen Brown layup; the Celtics leading 89-87 with 1.8 seconds to play.
That set the scene for a fading jump-shot from Marco Belinelli, at the buzzer, to force an overtime period. After the mess from the quick-triggered confetti machine operator was cleaned up, the extra period of basketball was underway.
The 76ers came out strong in overtime, with a Simmons layup giving his team a 98-94 lead with just over one minute to play. Then, the youth of Brett Brown’s team caught up to them.
After a Jayson Tatum layup, Embiid’s turnover led to Horford splitting a pair of free throws. The 76ers centre would then miss a shot, which was rebounded by Simmons, but the Australian inexplicably shot the ball instead of running down the clock.
“If it was a point blank dunk, you probably would take that,” 76ers head coach, Brett Brown, said of Simmons’ decision to shoot in that late-game situation.
“If we had it again, you’d probably bring that back out and let them chase you and foul..
“(But), on so many levels — this being one of the examples — it’s the thing that I see and feel the most, and internally hear the loudest; that out young guys, at times, look young.”
The miss would set the scene for Brad Stevens to run a play that got Horford open for a layup; the Celtics leading 99-98 with 5.5 to play.
Simmons’ inbounds pass to Embiid was then stolen by Horford, who hit his two free throws putting the Celtics up 101-98. Belinelli’s three-point heave at the buzzer was off, giving the Celtics the win, and a commanding series lead.
Tatum had another extremely impressive game for the Celtics, posting 24 points, five rebounds, and four assists, as well as a game-high +24. Terry Rozier had 18 points of his own.
Embiid finished with a team-high 22 points and 19 rebounds for the 76ers, while Redick posted 18 points.
Game 4 of the series is on Tuesday (AEST).