It wasn't easy, but the Boston Celtics were able to hold off the Philadelphia 76ers to take a 3-0 series lead.
In a back-and-forth contest full of runs, it was the Celtics who struck last, scoring eight unanswered points to close out the game. A handful of clutch defensive plays and a classic Kemba Walker stepback jumper put the icing on the cake, leaving Boston one win shy of advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
For more on this Game 3 battle, we have you covered with takeaways below.
Kemba Walker making timely plays
What a luxury it is having Walker as a secondary option.
With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown not having their best games, it was Walker who kept the Celtics afloat for most of Game 3.
Walker came out strong with eight points and three assists in the first quarter alone. He then dominated the third quarter with 10 points, including a stretch in which he scored eight straight points for the Celtics.
And-1 for Kemba... he scores 8 straight @celtics points on TNT! pic.twitter.com/qTEVy0Pjtu- NBA (@NBA) August 22, 2020
Walker only had four points in the fourth, but two of those points helped put the 76ers away.
sent him skating :ice_skate: pic.twitter.com/xRsXGN5wab- Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 22, 2020
Walker finished with 24 points to lead the Celtics, doing so on 10-for-20 shooting from the field. The most important number? 13, which was the amount the Celtics outscored the 76ers by with him on the court, giving him the best plus-minus of the game.
I repeat: Walker as a secondary option is quite the luxury.
- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)
How much more can Embiid do?
Joel Embiid's aggressiveness was questioned after taking just 15 shot attempts in Philly's Game 1 loss despite finishing with 26 points and 16 rebounds. He took that criticism personally as we've seen before, coming out swinging in Game 2 en route to 34 points and 10 rebounds - still in a losing effort, though.
He kept that same alpha attitude in Game 3 and single-handedly kept the Sixers in the game, tallying a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds by halftime. To give you more of an idea of just how much Embiid did in the first half - the rest of Philadelphia had 27 points combined on over triple the amount of field goal attempts.
Picking up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter derailed his momentum a bit, but he was back to business in the fourth quarter.
He terrorized the Celtics down low, forcing Daniel Theis to foul out of the contest. He caused constant mismatches and made life difficult for Boston, finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds, but it came in another loss.
Joel Embiid is averaging 30 points and 13 rebounds in this series.- StatMuse (@statmuse) August 22, 2020
His team is down 0-3. pic.twitter.com/GChJ64c4Vg
While the 76ers knew life would be tough without All-Star guard Ben Simmons, their supporting cast has yet to help out their star centre. Will that change moving forward or will Philly go down in four games?
- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)
Jayson Tatum's early foul trouble
The Celtics had to work around a major obstacle to start Game 3 when Tatum picked up three quick fouls in the first quarter.
The All-Star forward had been on a tear in the series, averaging 32.5 points on 53.7% shooting from the field and 58.8% from 3-point range, but foul trouble prevented him from getting into any sort of a rhythm in the first half.
Tatum did not see the floor for the entire second quarter, entering halftime with just five points. He didn't convert another field goal until just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter, staying quiet through the first three frames.
He never completely looked in sync, but still converted a couple big buckets down the stretch of the game, as well as a massive block on Embiid to help close out the victory.
Tatum would finish with just 15 points shooting an ugly 6-for-19 (31.6%) from the field and 2-for-9 (22.2%) from 3-point land, but still found other ways to impact the game with six boards and three blocks.
This game can be seen as a learning lesson for the 22-year-old forward.
Marcus Smart, making things happen
It was a quiet game for Smart offensively, but you best believe he showed up defensively.
Smart made the biggest play of the game on that end of the floor. With the Celtics trailing by two points with under two minutes to go, he read a skip pass from Embiid perfectly to come up with a steal that sparked an And-1 for Brown on the other end.
Seriously, just look at this:
HUGE PLAY. pic.twitter.com/1jCi05C9Wa- Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 22, 2020
Smart couldn't have defended it better. He helped off of Tobias Harris just enough to make Embiid think twice about passing it to Al Horford underneath the rim, but not too far off of him that he couldn't recover in time to pick off the pass.
A defensive genius is what Smart is.
Brown converted the free throw to put the Celtics ahead, which was the beginning of the end for the 76ers.
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