BOSTON (AP) — Joel Embiid scored 33 points and the Philadelphia 76ers easily took a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beating the Boston Celtics 115-103 on Tuesday night.
The 76ers led by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter as home fans booed the Celtics, and can close out the series and advance to the conference finals when they host Game 6 on Thursday night.
It was the third straight 30-point game in the series for Embiid, who also had seven rebounds, four blocks and three 3-pointers.
Tyrese Maxey added 30 points and six 3-pointers. James Harden finished with 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Jayson Tatum led Boston with 36 points but was just 11-of-27 from the field. Jaylen Brown finished with 24 points. The Celtics went 12-of-38 from the 3-point line.
The previous two occasions the 76ers were in a second-round series that was tied 2-2, they were blown out in Game 5 — a 36-point loss to Toronto in 2019 and 35-point loss to Miami last season.
Not this time.
The 76ers led by as many as 19 points in the third quarter and took an 88-72 lead into the fourth.
A quick flurry by the Celtics cut the deficit to 11, but Philadelphia responded with a 10-2 run to push it back up to 102-83.
Philadelphia made a concerted effort to get the ball to Embiid in the post from the outset. He was able to knock down mid-range jumpers, helping to open the floor for his teammates as Boston’s big men were pulled out of the paint.
Meanwhile, the Celtics struggled to find their shot throughout.
The 76ers enjoyed an early rebounding advantage and had success with Embiid running pick-and-roll sets at Al Horford. It led to scoring opportunities for Embiid and contributed to Philadelphia building a 15-point lead in the first half.
Tatum missed his first six attempts before hitting a runner with 5:48 left in the second quarter. He finished the first half with 15 points but was just 3 of 11 from the field (1 of 6 from 3-point range).
Boston eventually cobbled together a 10-0 run to cut into the deficit, but Philadelphia settled down and went into halftime with a 58-49 lead.
76ers: Embiid had 21 first-half points, going 9-for-9 from the free throw line.
Celtics: Their 103 points were their fewest of this post-season. … Boston shot 5-of-19 from beyond the arc in the opening 24 minutes.
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Kyle Hightower, The Associated Press