Game 3 takeaways: Horford's elite shooting sparks C's victory


The Boston Celtics spoiled Joel Embiid's triumphant return to Philadelphia with a pivotal Game 3 victory on Friday night.

Shortly before tip-off, Embiid received the Michael Jordan Trophy as the 2022-23 NBA MVP. The superstar big man put on a show for the Wells Fargo Center crowd (30 points, 13 rebounds), but it wasn't enough as the Celtics earned a 114-102 win to take a 2-1 series lead.

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Six Celtics players scored in double figures. Jayson Tatum (27 points) and Jaylen Brown (23 points) led the way while fellow starters Al Horford (17 points), Marcus Smart (15 points), and Derrick White (13 points) each enjoyed strong performances. Malcolm Brogdon (15 points) stepped up with multiple big shots off the bench.

Game 4 in Philly is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. Before we turn the page to that matchup, here are three takeaways from the Celtics' Game 3 win.

Elite shooter

Boston fans can thank the reporter who inadvertently motivated Al Horford before Game 3. The reporter couldn't hold back his laughter after Horford referred to himself as an elite shooter.

“You’re laughing? You don’t think I’m an elite shooter?” Horford asked. “My numbers don’t support it?”

The 36-year-old let his play do the talking in Friday's win. He knocked down five of his seven 3-point attempts, including a big shot to end the first half and a clutch 3 in the fourth quarter. He finished 6-for-8 from the field for 17 points in 31 minutes.

As our Chris Forsberg predicted, Horford ending his 3-point shooting slump was the key to the Game 3 victory. The veteran big man had the last laugh on Friday night.

Hard times for Harden

James Harden gave Sixers fans Ben Simmons flashbacks for much of Game 3. The former MVP passed up several open shots and couldn't buy a bucket when he did decide to shoot.

Harden finished with 16 points and 11 assists but don't let those numbers fool you. It was a dismal performance. He finished just 3-for-14 from the field and 2-for-7 from beyond the arc. Since dropping 45 points in Game 1, Harden is 5-for-28 (2-13 3-PT) with only 28 points in Games 2 and 3 combined.

Credit the Celtics for putting consistent defensive pressure on Harden, but he will need to make some serious adjustments if the 76ers are to regain the series lead. The same goes for fellow Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey, who was just 4-for-16 from the floor.

Jayson Tatum bounces back

Tatum played only 19 minutes in the Celtics' Game 2 win due to foul trouble. The four-time All-Star finished with an uncharacteristic seven points on 1-of-7 shooting.

“I only played 18 minutes so it was like a day off,” Tatum told reporters. “So, gotta stay out of foul trouble today.”

He did just that, and his presence was needed down the stretch as his clutch shots helped Boston close out the victory. Tatum dropped 27 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

The 25-year-old added 10 rebounds, five assists, and two steals while shooting 10-for-20 from the floor. Another performance like that on Sunday should put Boston on the brink of another Eastern Conference Finals appearance.

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