May 10, 2023
Tuesday night, in all likelihood, was a make-or-break Game 5 up in Boston and, by far, the Sixers' biggest game in over two decades.
And they showed up. Oh man, did they show up.
For 48 minutes, in front of a bewildered TD Garden crowd, Joel Embiid and the Sixers cut right through the Celtics' defense and hit on every shot they needed, all while on the other end of the floor, they stayed on the ball, always seemed to come up with a timely block or turnover, and forced Boston's shooters into taking bad looks all night long.
The Sixers won a game they never do again, and are now coming back to Philly with a 3-2 series lead and just one more win needed to finally break through that second-round wall that has plagued them for years.
They're not in the clear yet, but things sure do feel different this time, this team feels different. And the Wells Fargo Center, which is going to be absolutely electric Thursday night, will be fully ready to celebrate what could, at last, be on the other side.
Here's what they're saying about the Sixers after a monumental Game 5...
The Sixers' offense, led by Embiid and James Harden, just completely picked the Celtics apart Tuesday night as our own Kyle Neubeck broke down HERE.
But on the other side of the ball, they were just as great.
Boston, which had done so well shooting from three all series, suddenly had nothing.
Embiid, P.J. Tucker, and Georges Niang had them boxed out down low, and on the perimeter, Tyrese Maxey, De'Anthony Melton, Danuel House, and even Harden just kept hounding Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown into poor shot selections.
It was impressive, as ESPN's Doris Burke made sure to note on the network Wednesday morning:
"Boston at its best because of its proclivity and because of its proficiency as a three-point shooting team, at their best, they drive and kick, create open threes and it can feel like an avalanche when it's coming from five spots.
You have to be able to do two things well against Boston defensively. You have to keep great pressure on the ball and then you have to be able to contain the ball, and that combination is extremely difficult.
We expect it from P.J. Tucker, we expect it from De'Anthony Melton – who is an underrated, excellent piece that was added to Philadelphia – but I gotta give some credit to two guys who are much maligned defensively, they are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it's amazing for Tyrese Maxey and James Harden, when you have active hands, active feet, you're locked into the gameplan, what you can do.
And give [Doc Rivers] some credit here too. Twenty-six possessions, he sprinkled in the zone, Boston's shooting 27 percent against it. Philadelphia's defense has been on point in this series. I could not be more impressed." [ESPN]
The playoffs are where stars become legends, but no team ever makes it without a couple of unsung heroes popping up along the way.
Danuel House Jr. was one of them for the Sixers on Tuesday night.
House didn't have much to do in the series so far, but entering Game 5, head coach Doc Rivers had a hunch and stuck with it.
He put House in the rotation and the payoff couldn't have been greater.
Wrote NBC Sports Philly's Noah Levick:
After mulling over the Sixers’ rotation with a group of assistant coaches he’s lauded at every opportunity, Rivers decided Tuesday night to trust himself most. Instead of sticking with an eight-man rotation, sliding Jalen McDaniels back into the mix, or trying an alternative like Shake Milton, Rivers played House his first real rotation minutes in exactly one month.
He got what he envisioned (and perhaps more). House defended Malcolm Brogdon well, scored 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting, and looked quite comfortable next to fellow former Rocket James Harden.
“Listen, you go with your gut,” Rivers said. “I can tell you we talked about it painstakingly yesterday and today — between three guys, who to play. And I can tell you House was not the pick. But I just picked him.
“I thought we needed size and we needed athleticism, and that’s something he has. I also thought that he’s the guy who’s played with James the most, and he knows how to play with James. So I thought that was important.” [NBCSP]
And with the opportunity, House gave everything:
Doc Rivers: “Danuel House gave me the European signal for substitution [X]... I didn't know what it was, we have an X play. So I'm thinking X play, and he said, ‘No, I can't breathe.’” pic.twitter.com/N51KO00wME— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) May 10, 2023
Coming back to Philly, all the pressure is on the Celtics now as a title favorite sits on the brink of elimination.
Strange to have the shoe on the other foot for once, isn't it?
Boston, a city that hasn't really known much sports-related adversity over the past two decades, clearly isn't used to it.
Wrote Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who hasn't exactly been thrilled with this Celtics team:
The ever-front-runner Celtics, always wildly supported by loyal Green Teamers, trail this series, 3-2, and are on the brink of elimination.
How is this possible? We all keep saying that Boston is the best team still playing in the NBA tournament. The Celtics have more good players than anyone left standing. They are (were) Vegas favorites to win the title. They got to the Finals last year, led, 2-1 before failing and Brad Stevens added Malcolm Brogdon to an already talented mix.
But now there is trouble on Causeway Street. And we are suddenly afraid that the Celts might be infected with the poison that blew up the Bruins, who checked out in round one of the NHL playoffs after the greatest regular season in league history.
Seriously. Is this happening again? Is Boston doomed to another awful upset? [Boston Globe]
Tough times for Boston sports fans, I suppose.
I’m just in a dark place with this Celtics team. Officially NOT TWEETING TONIGHT. See you for the podcast late night.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 9, 2023
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