Celtics beat 76ers in overtime thriller, take 3-0 series lead

A. Sherrod Blakely
NBC Sports Boston

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia 76ers called for the confetti to the floor in what they believed was a win in regulation, only for the game to actually be headed to overtime. 

That would be one of several mistakes late in the game made by Philadelphia, as the Celtics are now one win away from a return trip to the Eastern Conference finals following a 101-98 Game 3 win. 

Al Horford scored the go-ahead basket, then came up with the seal-the-win steal and was immediately fouled. 

He made both free throws to seal the victory, which gives Boston a 3-0 series lead with a chance to close it out on Monday.

Al Horford scored with 5.5 seconds to play, putting Boston up 99-98. 

The Sixers called a timeout. 

Down the stretch, points were indeed hard to come by for both teams, a reminder as to how Boston and Philly were both among the better teams defensively in the NBA this past season. 

One of the big storylines coming into the game was the play of Ben Simmons, who scored just one point in Boston's 108-103 Game 2 win in Boston. 

The 6-foot-10 point-forward was far more effective back in the comfy confines of the Wells Fargo Center, scoring and dishing at a clip that we have seen often. 

Simmons would finish with 14 points, six rebounds, and six assists. 

But even with Simmons playing better and Joel Embiid (22 points, 20 rebounds) just dominating play inside the paint, Boston spent a considerable amount of the game either playing with a lead or being within one possession of the Sixers. 

In the third quarter, the Celtics continued to hold their own with the Sixers despite key players in foul trouble. 

Leading the charge for Boston was Terry Rozier, whose shot-making put the Celtics up by as many as five points in the third quarter which ended with Boston ahead 69-68. He would finish with 18 points, nine of which came in the third quarter.

Boston opened the game with a 12-6 run, led by Jayson Tatum who had seven points during the spurt. 

Tatum, looking to build on his rookie, record-setting run of consecutive playoff games with at least 20 points (4), seemed to finally be slowed down as early foul trouble limited his minutes through the first three quarters.

The Sixers closed out the first quarter with a pair of 3-pointers that helped put them ahead 20-19 after the first. 

Boston immediately bounced back with a 5-0 spurt to start the second and pulled ahead 35-25. 

From there, the game's momentum swung in Philly's favor in part because of the Celtics' mounting foul trouble; specifically Tatum and Jaylen Brown who each had three personal fouls in the first half that limited their playing time.

It was a much bigger deal for Tatum, who had to leave the game with more than six minutes to play after having scored 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting. He didn't score again until a driving layup early in the fourth. But the 20-year-old ended up with 24 points when all was set and done.

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