The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are all tied up in the Eastern Conference Semifinals ahead of a pivotal Game 3. The Sixers stole the first game in Boston without their MVP center Joel Embiid. The Celtics then responded in Game 2 by blowing Philly out 121-87. The series now travels to Philadelphia, where a historically decisive Game 3 will be played tonight.
According to ESPN, the winner of Game 3 in a tied series goes on to advance about 73% of the time. The Sixers will have home court for Game 3 and an especially rowdy crowd, as this will be the first time Embiid has played at the Wells Fargo Center since winning MVP.
Philly has yet to lose at home in the 2023 playoffs, but Boston is also solid on the road. Regardless of where Game 3 is being played, fans should expect a rocking atmosphere in a critical contest between old rivals.
Before the Eastern Conference showdown starts, here are three bold Celtics predictions for Game 3 versus the Philadelphia 76ers.
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3. Celtics won't hold Embiid under 30 points
The C's put on a horrible defensive display in Game 1, as an undermanned Sixers squad hung 63 points on them in the first half and shot 50.6% from the field for the game. Conversely, Boston locked up in Game 2 and held Philly to just 87 points on 39.2% shooting from the field.
Which defense comes out to play in Game 3 will be huge for the Celtics. If they can mirror their defensive effort from Game 2, they should be in a good place for tonight's contest.
Even if Boston's defense shows up, Embiid could easily go for 30 points or more. Although his injury issues have hindered him in the 2023 playoffs, he can still score with the best of them. His fadeaway jumper was going in during Game 2, and he was getting to the line repeatedly, yet Boston beat Philly so badly that there was no reason to even play Embiid late in the game.
Tonight the score will likely be less lopsided, so there's a very good chance of Embiid playing more than 30 minutes or so. Plus, the 2023 MVP will be fired up in front of the home crowd after receiving his 2023 MVP trophy before the game.
An unstoppable force (33.1 PPG)
An immovable object (1.7 BPG)
That's a VALUABLE combo.
Joel Embiid will get his #KiaMVP trophy tonight before Game 3 at 7:30pm/et on ESPN! pic.twitter.com/LptzQQdR6W
— NBA (@NBA) May 5, 2023
Yet, even if the C's can't hold Embiid under 30 points, they can still walk away with a win. If Boston can limit his free-throw attempts and his opportunities to rest, they have a fair shot to retake home-court advantage.
2. Grant Williams and Malcolm Brogdon combine for more than 30 points off the bench
In Game 2, the Celtics' bench shined. That's not too much of a surprise when it features 2023 Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon. However, he wasn't the only bench player who stepped up.
Forward Grant Williams struggled to get any playing time in the first round of the playoffs. He made the most of his minutes in Game 2 though, as he hit four triples for 12 points while posting a plus-minus rating of plus-22.
Marcus Smart DRILLS the three late in the shot clock after Grant Williams’ hustle play 😤 pic.twitter.com/CNDHu2TkiF
— Celtics Nation (@CelticsNationCP) May 4, 2023
Brogdon and Williams combined for 35 points on the night, so it'd make sense if they got some more run in Game 3. Despite it only being his first year as a Celtic, Brogdon has been reliable on both ends of the court for Boston and is a great spark off the bench. Williams has been less trustworthy this season, yet he seems to be earning back that trust as of late with his timely 3-pointers and added hustle. He's also handled his lack of minutes well, which is a positive sign for any role player in the NBA.
Caught Grant Williams leaving the game tonight: ""I was just prepared for whatever came," he said. "For me, it's not a matter of understanding if I'm gonna play or not, I just have to be prepared for whatever moment is gonna happen. Tonight, I was asked to play more…"
— Bobby Manning (@RealBobManning) May 4, 2023
If Brogdon and Williams can back up Boston's stars, they'll be in a good position tonight.
1. The Boston Celtics attempt more than 45 triples
Boston made the 3-point shot its bread and butter throughout the regular season. In the playoffs, the C's have utilized it less, yet it made a huge resurgence in Game 2.
After attempting just 26 triples in Game 1, Boston shot 51 in Game 2. The main difference between the two games was that in Game 1 the shots from deep weren't falling (10 made 3-pointers) while in Game 2, they were going in left and right (20 made 3-pointers). Plus, Embiid's return in Game 2 caused the Celtics to venture away from the paint a lot more.
3 Pointers made in Game 2:
Celtics — 20
Sixers — 6
Celtics outscored us by 42 points at the 3 point line.
— ً (@HardenFinalsMVP) May 4, 2023
For Game 3, the Celtics could use a similar approach. Embiid's shot-blocking will probably push Boston out to the perimeter again. But as long as the C's are connecting at a good rate, they will live with that.
Winning the 3-point battle will be crucial ahead of Game 3, which tips off tonight at 7:30 EST.