Tim BontempsESPN3 minutes to read
Philadelphia – When Jayson Tatum’s 3-pointer fell back through the net at Wells Fargo Center with 1.3 seconds to go in the Saturday night thriller between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, it looked to the whole world as if the Celtics had just won the game.
As it turns out, Tatum did — but just barely.
Joel Embiid caught the ensuing inside pass, and his 70-foot high only hit the net at the other end—but it came a split second after the final buzzer sounded. Instead of sending this game into overtime, it made what had become a 110-107 loss to the 76ers even more disappointing.
Embiid said when asked if the delayed shooting was worse. “It didn’t count. But I think it’s a good feature for everyone, social media and all that stuff.
“But it didn’t count, and we lost the game. It’s frustrating to lose those kinds of games, especially when you win so much. It’s frustrating.”
Embiid was amazing, finishing with 41 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in just under 40 minutes for Philadelphia (39-20). However, this did not prevent the 76ers from losing for the third time in three meetings with Boston (44-17) this season. Besides, Boston had a four-game lead in the standings with 23 games to play, severely hurting the 76ers’ chances of catching their rivals.
The Sixers blew a 15-point lead, allowing the Celtics to get back into the game during a 23-3 run that spanned the final few minutes of the third quarter and the opening minutes of the fourth.
For Boston, the most memorable moment was Tatum’s lead and burying that 3-back. It wasn’t the nicest performance overall from Tatum, who finished with 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting to go with 13 rebounds and six assists. And five turns in 36 minutes. But when Boston needed him to make it, he stepped up, dagger-slashing a hard-hitting 76-man defense from Dee Anthony Melton.
“Get a breakup and do a play,” Tatum said of his thoughts on the latest play. “Poetry [Melton] Leaning over, he snatched him back for movement and shot me a thousand times before.”
Tatum’s shot came from a similar combination Boston used against the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this season. It’s a play that the Celtics have used time and time again over the past several years, initially created by current President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens during his coaching days with Boston.
Celtics coach Joe Mazzola said afterward that he stole the play from Stevens.
“I think it’s reading,” said Mazzola. “You can do a bunch of different things from it [that set]. So it’s just a matter of reading Where the Defenders are. [Marcus] Smart made a great play. [Tatum] He did well in class.
“Situations like that, guys have to make plays, and they’ve done that.”
The Sixers said they could accept the way Boston’s final possession played, with coach Doc Rivers praising Milton’s defense and tipping his hat to Tatum.
“I mean, he went down, they threw the ball to him, he pulled up…that’s probably a shot he’s working on,” Rivers said. “Best case scenario is to make it hard for him. He got hard.
“Sometimes, you have to live with those.”
Philadelphia also had to live with Embiid’s miraculous shot putter. While many of the 20,993 in attendance went berserk after the shot went in, the 76ers—led by Embiid himself—didn’t have to see a replay to know it didn’t count.
PJ Tucker, who immediately gained possession of the ball after Tatum’s shot and blocked it to Embiid, said the Sixers players knew it was too late.
“The other guys on the bench knew right away,” he said.
“Yes, I was sure of it,” the coach said with a smile when asked if he knew it wouldn’t count. “I was hoping [I was wrong]But I was absolutely sure.”
Embiid credited Celtics guard Derek White for getting in his way enough to force him to make an extra move before letting the ball go.
“I mean, I wish I’d shot him sooner, but when I turned around, I saw Derek White there, so I couldn’t really get him off, so I had to kind of go back to my right side to try and get him,” Embiid said.
Then Embiid – tongue firmly in cheek – added: “So, alas, the story of my life.”
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