Celtics Bully 76ers Again, Phoenix’s Star Duo Powers Game 3 Win

Friday night in the 2023 NBA Playoffs saw Philadelphia struggle to score once again as the Boston Celtics secured a second-straight win to take a 2-1 lead. The Phoenix Suns got huge scoring nights from Devin Booker and Kevin Durant to get their first win against the Denver Nuggets.

Celtics Too Much for Philly in 114-102 Win

The Celtics are proving to be a worthy favorite in this series after holding the 76ers to 102 points on 39.7% shooting at home in Game 3. Even though Joel Embiid had his first 30-point scoring game this postseason, his supporting cast was not good at all.

James Harden again struggled to find his shot and finished with 16 points on 3-of-14 shooting. Tobias Harris was in a lot of foul trouble and only scored 7 points. Tyrese Maxey also had a rough night with 4-of-16 shooting for 13 points. That core group of the team wasted Embiid’s effort as well as solid 3-point shooting from P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton as the 76ers shot 16-of-37 (43.2%) from three, which is usually enough for this team to win a game.

But the Celtics also put in 16 3s and shot 22-of-23 at the free throw line. Jayson Tatum (27) and Jaylen Brown (23) combined for 50 points, but Al Horford was also a big part of the game story with five made 3s on his way to 17 points. Marcus Smart turned in another solid game with 15 points and 3 steals, and Malcolm Brogdon had 15 points and 6 assists off the bench.

The 76ers did cut a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to 100-96, but Horford’s fifth 3 was a dagger with just over 3:00 left. Even when Harden finally stepped into his second 3 of the game, Tatum immediately answered it with one of his own to push the lead back to insurmountable margins.

On a Night of Stars, Suns Shined the Brightest

Kevin Durant
Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Photo by Icon Sport

Phoenix finally got a win against Denver in the fashion you would expect: Devin Booker (47) and Kevin Durant (39) dominating for 86 combined points while the team still had to hang on late. Durant also had 9 rebounds and 8 assists to go with his 39 points. Denver also saw Nikola Jokic (30) and Jamal Murray (32) both hit 30 points, but the Suns led by as many as 16 points and generally controlled play. Murray’s 3-point shot was still off as he finished 1-of-6.

In fact, only Michael Porter Jr. (6-of-10) made multiple 3s for Denver. Jokic had another triple-double with 30 points, 17 rebounds, and 17 assists in a losing effort.

Without Chris Paul (groin), Cameron Payne started at point guard for Phoenix and did a modest job with 7 points and 6 assists. But this was largely Booker’s night with 20-of-25 shooting in one of the more efficient games you will see from a scorer. Booker’s teammates were 4-of-20 from 3, so they really needed him to deliver.

Denver did rally back from 16 down to take a third-quarter lead, but the Suns closed well with T.J. Warren making a couple of the biggest baskets late. The Suns are going to need more than just Booker and Durant going forward.

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