A crucial Game 5 awaits the 76ers in their deadlocked Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Celtics on Tuesday night in Boston. Sixers coach Doc Rivers acknowledged the importance of the win, but he pointed out that it was vital for the home team.
“They’re big,” he said of winning swing games. “Game 3, Game 5, Game 7. Those are big games. They are always there.
“So it’s a big game, but it’s a big game for both teams. It’s not big for one team or the other. It’s a big game for both teams.
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A win (DNT) in the 7:30 p.m. match at TD Garden would give the Sixers a three-to-two lead in the best-of-seven series. That would put them in position to wrap up the series Thursday in Game 6 at the Wells Fargo Center.
But recent history isn’t on the Sixers’ side when it comes to Game 5′s in the second round. They have suffered Game 5 losses in each of their last six conference-semifinal appearances, including last season.
Last year, the Sixers were tied 2 games to four with Miami. But the Heat won the series with wins in Games 5 and 6. In 2021, it went 2-2 against the Hawks. The Sixers lost in Game 5 and lost the series in seven games.
“We’re not thinking about last year or the year before. That’s wasted energy,” said Rivers, who is in his third season coaching the Sixers. “What’s that going to do? We’re not even playing the same teams. We don’t even have half the people that were here, but winning.” The desire to achieve and progress is great and you have to make sure it doesn’t overtake your brain.
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If James Harden plays well, the Sixers will definitely get a boost on Tuesday.
The point guard averaged 43.5 points and 6.5 three-pointers in both wins. However, his averages dropped to 14 points and one three-pointer in the two losses. Harden shot a combined 5-for-28 in those games.
They will also benefit from a solid fourth quarter from Joel Embiid.
The newly minted MVP finished with 34 points, four assists and a game-high 13 rebounds in Sunday’s 116-115 overtime win in Game 4. However, Embiid struggled in the fourth quarter and made just 1 of 6 shots. Third game playing with a sprained right knee. After three quarters he got tired.
Embiid, who played with a right knee brace, had trouble lifting in the fourth quarter and into overtime.
“Unfortunately for him, that’s the cost of doing business when you’re not healthy,” Rivers said. “So I think we’ll obviously monitor that part. So if we think he can’t play, we’ll make a change. But listen, they played seven. [players]. We played as six and a half men. I think that’s where we are now.
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The Sixers must do a solid job of containing Jaylen Brown. The shooting guard was the most consistent Celtic during the series. He is averaging 23.5 points while shooting 40.9% from three-point range. He did a solid job of shutting down Harden in Games 2 and 3. Meanwhile, forward Jayson Tatum averaged 24.3 points and 11.5 rebounds in the series for Boston.
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Reverse Sixes like to be aware of situations during the game.
“You can play hard, but if you don’t play hard and smart, you’re going to win. We’re going to show that today [during film study.] Twice we’ve done the hard thing that wasn’t very smart, so you should do both.
“You have to have your composure while playing all-out.”