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Tuesday in the 2023 NBA Playoffs started with a surprise when the Philadelphia 76ers dominated the Boston Celtics in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead. The Denver Nuggets answered the bell at home in their Game 5 with the Phoenix Suns, who saw superstar Devin Booker cool down from his historic shooting.
Is It Finally Philadelphia’s Year?
The 76ers have infamously not been past the second round of the playoffs since 2001, and they were also on a 7-game losing streak in Game 5 when the series is tied 2-2. As an 8-point underdog in Boston, most assumed the 76ers would not get the same stellar play from James Harden as they got in Sunday’s overtime win, but little did anyone expect Philadelphia to dominate the game and win 115-103.
While Boston star Jayson Tatum finished with 36 points on 27 shots, he again came out cold, going 0-for-5 in the first quarter. The 76ers led 33-26 and would win the next two quarters as well, building a lead as large as 21 points.
Harden only took 8 shots and scored 17 points, but he had 10 assists and 8 rebounds too. Joel Embiid stepped up and hit three triples on his way to 33 points and 4 blocks. But perhaps the story of the game was the way the supporting cast finally stepped up. Tyrese Maxey poured in 30 points with 6 made 3s while Tobias Harris had 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Boston’s cast was poor. Al Horford finished 0-for-7 from the field (all from deep) with 0 points. Marcus Smart was 2-of-7, Malcolm Brogdon was 3-of-9, and Derrick White was 2-of-6. Boston shot 39.8% from the field and 31.6% from deep.
The Celtics never could get closer than 11 points in the fourth quarter. They will face elimination in Philadelphia in Game 6, and the 76ers are the new odds-on favorites to win the NBA Finals.
Devin Booker Cools Down as Nuggets Win 118-102
We knew Phoenix’s path to victory was very limited to Devin Booker and Kevin Durant being incredible. In Game 5, the duo combined for 54 points, but it came on 42% shooting instead of the historic rates we saw at home in the last two games. Booker was 8-of-19 and had almost half of the team’s 3-point makes (4-of-9) again.
Point guard Cameron Payne only had 7 points and 4 assists in filling in for Chris Paul again. Deandre Ayton was again blown away in the center matchup with Nikola Jokic, who finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.
Denver expected to get its role players to step up at home, but few imagined Bruce Brown would drop 25 points in this game. He was great off the bench, and Michael Porter Jr. made 5 3s for 19 points. Jamal Murray was held to 19 points, but the contributions of Porter Jr. and Brown were more than enough to complement the triple-double greatness of Jokic.
Denver led by as many as 24 points, blowing the game open in the third quarter with a 39-25 edge. Phoenix ended up benching its starters with 4:00 left in the 16-point loss.
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