James Harden put up a season-high 45 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a thrilling 119-115 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday night. With Joel Embiid ruled out due to a knee injury, Harden shouldered the load for Philadelphia, making 17 of 30 shots from the field and 7 of 14 from beyond the arc. With 12.4 seconds remaining, Harden scored a step-back jumper over Al Horford after a Malcolm Brogdon pass was intercepted by Tyrese Maxey for a layup that put the 76ers up by one point.
James Harden’s playoff heroics lead 76ers to thrilling Game 1 victory over Celtics
Many were surprised by Harden’s outstanding performance, given the Celtics were favorites to win the game in Embiid’s absence. Despite a blazing start by Boston, which shot 17-for-20 from the field in the first quarter alone, Harden’s offensive firepower kept Philadelphia within striking distance.
“He really did have the perfect mindset tonight,” 76ers head coach Doc Rivers remarked of Harden. “He’s a Hall of Famer, and all you hear about him is the negative stuff.” And he was amazing.”
Philadelphia made a deliberate effort to outshoot Boston from beyond the arc, with Harden attempting more than half as many three-point shots as the entire Celtics team. He also played solid defense, recording two steals and three blocks.
Despite the fact that the game was played in Boston in front of a sellout crowd of 19,156 people, Harden seems unfazed by the pressure. “Get the best available shot no matter what,” he said of his playing strategy. “And, you know… raise it up and shoot it.”
76ers’ players stepped up in the absence of Embiid
The 76ers’ victory not only secured home-court advantage for the remainder of the series, but it also proved the team’s depth in Embiid’s absence. “As good as he is, I think it gives others opportunities to step up and play,” said P.J. Tucker of the Philadelphia 76ers. “James can kind of do his thing, Tyrese is obviously really good without Jo, and everybody else… everyone took a little step up with him out.”
Despite Harden’s heroics, the 76ers will face a more difficult test in Game 2, as the Celtics will definitely change their game plan to account for his offensive brilliance. Harden, on the other hand, might be the key to Philadelphia reaching the Eastern Conference finals if he can maintain his impressive form.
In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs, James Harden’s brilliant performance helped the Philadelphia 76ers get past the Boston Celtics and secure home-court advantage for the rest of the series. With Joel Embiid out due to injury, Harden delivered a season-high 45 points, including a game-winning step-back jumper in the final seconds. Although the Celtics will most likely make adjustments to counter Harden’s offensive skills, Harden’s ability to create separation and hit his trademark shots could prove decisive in the series.