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Celtics Force Game 7 vs. 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers missed out on their chance to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals as early as Thursday night.

Although the Sixers took control of the second-round series earlier this week, they couldn’t finish the job by eliminating Boston in Game 6 in South Philly. 

The Sixers and the Celtics battled it out for Game 1 last Monday night. In the absence of the injured MVP Joel Embiid, James Harden lifted the Sixers with a 45-point performance, which led to a 119-115 victory in favor of Philadelphia.

When the Sixers and the Celtics met two nights later, Embiid made his return to the floor. His presence didn’t give the Sixers the boost they expected. 

Instead, the Celtics turned in a dominant performance, which led to a 121-87 beatdown before both teams went to Philly for the first time in the series.

The Sixers looked to gain some steam following Embiid’s MVP ceremony ahead of Game 3 in South Philly. While that matchup was much closer than the previous one, the Sixers couldn’t overcome the Celtics for the second-straight game. Boston collected its second-straight win with a 114-102 victory.

As the Sixers trailed for the first time during the 2023 NBA Playoffs, they managed to bounce back in Game 4 by winning a tight 115-116 overtime victory before hitting the road for the second time this series.

Despite being on the road, the Sixers put together their best-looking performance of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. With an all-around impressive game from everybody involved on Philadelphia’s side, the Sixers defeated the Celtics 115-103.

The Sixers returned to South Philly with a 3-2 lead in the series. While they were one game away from eliminating the Celtics for good, the Sixers wanted to remain even-keeled as they understood that there was unfinished business going into Thursday’s Game 6. 

The first half didn’t go as planned for Philadelphia. Although there was tons of energy in the building at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers started the game off cold from the field. As a collective, the Sixers shot just 34 percent from the field and knocked down only five of their 19 threes.

Meanwhile, Boston made up for a rough Game 5 showing by lighting it up from beyond the arc from the start of the game. 

In the first quarter, the Celtics shot 6-9 from deep. While they cooled down in the second quarter, Boston finished the first half by draining nearly 50 percent of their shots from three. Going into halftime, the Sixers trailed the Celtics 50-43.

Although they trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Sixers wouldn’t roll over in the second half. After re-grouping at the intermission, the Sixers showed tons of energy and life in the third quarter.

Joel Embiid led the Sixers with eight points on 3-4 shooting from the field in nearly 11 minutes of action during the third quarter. 

James Harden was right behind him with seven points. By knocking down 53 percent of their shots and holding the Celtics to just 1-7 from three, the Sixers outscored the Celtics 30-21 to rally for a lead going into the fourth quarter. 

Philadelphia’s offensive success in the third quarter carried over into the start of the fourth. However, it wasn’t sustained. Going into crunch time, the Sixers had drained just two of their 16 shots heading into the final two minutes of the matchup. As a result, the Celtics got out in front and established a small lead. 

From that point on, the Celtics never looked back. 

The Sixers went cold on offense and didn't have an answer defensively for Boston. As a result, the Sixers came up short with a 95-86 loss. 

With that loss, the Sixers and the Celtics will battle it out for Game 7 on Sunday.