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Monday, June 17, 2024

Celtics spoil Embiid MVP moment, grab 2-1 playoff series lead

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Jayson Tatum scored 27 points to lead six Boston players in double figures on Friday as the Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-102 to take a 2-1 lead in their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Jaylen Brown added 23 points and Al Horford scored 17 for the Celtics, who regained home court advantage with a second straight victory after dropping game one in Boston.

They kept the momentum going on an emotional night in Philadelphia, where Sixers center Joel Embiid accepted his Most Valuable Player trophy from NBA commissioner Adam Silver in a pregame ceremony.

Embiid scored 30 points with 13 rebounds and four blocked shots in his second game back from a sprained knee.

But teammates James Harden and Tyrese Maxey struggled. Harden connected on just three of 14 shots on the way to 16 points while Maxey scored 13 points on 4-for-16 shooting.

Geared up for the hostile environment at the Wells Fargo Center, the Celtics got off to a quick start, powering to a 14-4 lead.

Tatum, who scored just seven points in game two, bounced back with a vengeance adding 10 rebounds five assists, two steals and a blocked shot, putting up 10 points in the first fur minutes.

The Sixers, however, kept it close and led by one after the first quarter.

They couldn’t maintain momentum, however. They were down by seven at halftime and never led after the break.

Embiid’s tip-in basket with 3:51 remaining pulled Philadelphia within four points, but Horford responded with a three-pointer and Tatum sank a turnaround basket and the Celtics were up by nine again.

Philadelphia fans were soon heading for the exits, a disappointing end to a night that began with loud chants of “M-V-P” for Cameroon’s Embiid, who received his trophy with his parents standing by, and addressed spectators holding his toddler son, Arthur — clad in a “My dad is the MVP” shirt.

“Honestly, he’s the main reason why I’m really here,” Embiid said “Becoming a father really changed my whole life. I just wanted to show him a good example.”

The Celtics made sure the feel-good moment didn’t last.

“We knew we could win,” Tatum told broadcaster ESPN. “This is a great team, the crowd’s electric, you love being in that environment.

“But we are not surprised. To win a championship you’ve got to win one on the road. We’ll take it.”

In the second game of the day’s double-header, the Phoenix Suns aimed to turn things around on their home floor against the top-seeded Nuggets, who won the first two games of their Western Conference semifinal in Denver.

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