Celtics-Sixers takeaways: James Harden crushes C's comeback hopes in OT

Game 4 takeaways: Harden crushes C's comeback hopes in OT originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

After a drama-filled day at Wells Fargo Center, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will head back to TD Garden with their second-round series tied at two games apiece.

The Celtics erased a 16-point deficit and took a brief lead in the fourth quarter, but James Harden played the hero for Philly. The former NBA MVP forced overtime with a clutch shot late in the final frame and followed that up with the game-winning 3-pointer in OT.

Harden and the 2022-23 MVP, Joel Embiid, combined for 76 points to lead the Sixers to a 116-115 victory.

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Jayson Tatum did his part to give the C's a chance. The 25-year-old bounced back from a rough first half to drop a team-high 24 points with 18 rebounds and four blocks. Conversely, Jaylen Brown started strong (16 points in first half) but was quiet down the stretch and finished with 23.

Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon also played key roles in the losing effort with 21 and 19 points, respectively.

Celtics Talk POSTGAME POD: Celtics fail to execute on final possession, 76ers even series | Listen & Subscribe

A crucial Game 5 in Boston is set for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. First, here are three takeaways from the Celtics' crushing Game 4 loss.


Can't keep James Harden down

After putting up 45 points in Philadelphia's Game 1 win, Harden shot just 5-of-28 from the floor in Games 2 and 3. Jaylen Brown's defense, as our Chris Forsberg wrote, helped to flip the series in Boston's favor.

But on Sunday, the 10-time All-Star showed why he's still considered one of the game's best. He started to take over the game with a huge second quarter.

Harden continued to be a thorn in Boston's side in the second half. He hit clutch shot after clutch shot to hold off the Celtics' comeback effort, including the game-tying bucket late in the fourth.

Minutes later came Harden's game-winning 3 to tie the series at 2-2. Harden finished with 42 points (16-23 FG, 6-9 3-PT), nine assists, and eight boards to make up for his struggles over his previous two games. The C's need to find a way to get the clamps back on Harden when they return to TD Garden on Tuesday.


Jayson Tatum overcomes slow start

Jayson Tatum had one of the worst starts of his career. The four-time All-Star went 0-for-5 from the floor with zero points in the first quarter. Per @BostonSportsInfo on Twitter, it was the first time Tatum has played 12 minutes in the first frame and not scored.

He didn't fare much better in the second as he finished the first half with only two points on 1-of-9 shooting.


Our Eddie House and Brian Scalabrine each had strong messages for Tatum on Celtics Halftime Live.

The Celtics superstar responded. He opened the second half with two quick buckets and quickly found his groove, hitting all five of his shots in the third quarter and scoring 13 points in the frame.

Tatum did damage on both ends and willed the Celtics' comeback effort in the fourth. Then in overtime, he came through with what could have been the game-winning 3-pointer had it not been for Harden's heroics.

He shot 9-for-12 from the floor after starting 0-for-8. It was encouraging to see Tatum snap out of his funk, but Boston will need a more consistent effort out of its star in Game 5.


No timeout?

Joe Mazzulla's unique timeout usage (or lack thereof) was a storyline throughout the regular season and it's a hot topic once again at an inopportune time for the Celtics.

Mazzulla opted not to call a timeout to draw up a play during the C's final possession of OT. Tatum drove to the basket and dished it out to Smart, who took the final shot again after taking and missing the final shot of regulation. He hit this one, though he didn't get the shot off on time.

"That was the play, we just had to play with a bit more pace," Mazzulla said after the loss. "We had the right matchup, Jayson got downhill and made the right play at the rim."

Despite the explanation, Mazzulla not calling the timeout will be a highly-debated topic leading into Tuesday's pivotal Game 5 showdown. Celtics fans will be left wondering what could have been had he called a timeout when the play broke down with five seconds left on the clock.