PHILADELPHIA – The ball has never been found by Joel Embiid.
Perhaps Ben Simmons's pass, 5.5 seconds behind in overtime and the Philadelphia 76ers passing by, lost some zip, or perhaps Embiid hit the bounce earlier with a longer stride. A stronger down-screen from Marco Belinelli for Embiid would have blocked the instinct of Boston Celtic's Big Man Al Horford for the ball.
"I knew [Horford] was fighting for the ball," Simmons said. "I assumed that Jo would get a bit further, and Horford read it a bit faster and obviously went and got it."
These are the small events with tremendous consequences on the edges of basketball that determine results such as Philadelphia 1
01-98 defeat against Boston in Game 3 of their conference semi-final series Saturday. In a parallel universe governed by better spirits for Philadelphia, Embiid nods the pass and runs a one-legged fadeway, finds a shooter, or takes a dribble or two on the way to the edge, as in the first half over Aron Baynes did.
Instead, the ball was controlled by the most balanced and versatile player on the ground – "Playoff Al," as rookie Jayson Tatum lovingly called him. After being caught by Embiid and the whistle sounding, Horford held the ball with a satisfying slap, tossing it to the official, and nodding casually to his team-mate as if he was speaking out for the dinner check.
Al Horford scores the greenhorn and in Game 3 gets the ball in the final seconds of extra time.
It was a decent nightcap for a player with such an unobtrusive approach and subtle skill, one of which can be found in the same hidden edges where the fate basketball games are determined. On the previous estate, with the Celtics lagging behind with an 8.4 seconds in overtime, Horford shook free from a frontline Robert Covington under the belt, snatched the incoming passport from the air, gathered the ball, then staggered back up to inside to lay the crucial bucket with two hands.
"He's a stabilizer for our group, no question," said Celtic coach Brad Stevens. "When all goes bad, everyone just looks at Al, and when we involve coaches, we all just stare at Al, waiting for him to say something, and when he says something, we all feel better and take a deep breath, and maybe we can he's incredible. "
For the Sixers, this five-second sequence was just the culmination of a night of heartbreaking failures:
Simmons missed a wide-open dunk on a ride of just over five
Embiid threw Belinelli a lazy pass that was intercepted by Terry Rozier in the final, with the Sixers clinging to a two-point lead.
And although there is a debate, Simmons opted for a rebound after an offensive rebound game, 17.2 seconds back and a Sixers advantage.  play
Ben Simmons grabs an offensive card and tries with Philadelphia 1 and a new shotgun
"It sucked this way," said Embiid. "I felt we had control of the whole game, especially when we had such a run at the end of the first half, and we felt really good, but in the end we made a few mistakes and it was not good for us. "
The Sixers players were steadfast in their refusal to mention one of their mistakes in a series that they now end 3-0 to their youth. After the game Embiid rejected the premise again.
"I do not like to blame the youth," he said. "We've made mistakes, it does not matter how old we are, and it does not matter that we've never been in that position before."
Although coach Brett Brown has claimed that the state of emergency of playoff basketball still exists New to most of his young squad, Embiid is quite right that the Sixers' bouts are largely the result of a failure in running. If they play well, the Sixers have an ingenious, three-edged attack that devalues the pick-and-roll sets that dominate the league. The Sixers claim their offensive on early occasions, largely initiated by Simmons, clever move sets that do good things for their shooters, and more traditional post-ups for Embiid, who dominates low.
On Saturday, the Sixers generally performed well in early offensive situations – 28 points in 15 possessions. But they fought in the half-court against a brilliantly choreographed Celtics defense, who excelled in the ball refusal and whose lanky wings made life difficult for the Sixers shooters.
The least productive offense of the sixes in Game 3? Posting Joel Embiid. On fifteen such occasions, where Embiid either shot, failed, turned the ball or went to a player who tried a shot in a dribble of the ball, the Sixers scored a total of eight points per Second Spectrum Research. It was a harvest that starved Philadelphia's offensive not only in its poor efficiency, but also in bringing the game to a stubborn pace – far too slow for a Sixers team that needed speed and propulsion.
The line of the game has to be slowed down, because [Embiid] needs a touch and you go a line, the movement trumps that feeling, "Brown said." You find out somewhere in the middle. I think for me it is you who realize that Aron Baynes and Al Horford are doing a really good job with him. Try to find other ways, better ways to touch it, than sometimes the frequency of it.
Then there is the question of Jayson Tatum, who set the Sixers on fire for a game-high 24 points to 11-for-17 shots from the field. Last week, Julius Erving had the most legendary Legend of the franchise explains that the Celtics rookie should be the first to be voted in last June's draft For the Sixers, in the draft of 2019 a high debut with their No. 3 selection for the right to circumvent Tatum and Markelle Selecting Fultz, acted, the look of Tatum's luster was a stroke of tragic irony in an otherwise blessed time of year.
Tatum shone on Saturday and left Embiid within a 90-minute gap that left him still working overtime. On-One-Drive with a head fake up-and-under on the edge that Embiid normally protects with a lockbox, then on the following possession, Tatum absorbed contact from Embiid as he knocked the Sixers back off the dribble wa crucial baskets that held the trailing Celtics in a possession of the Sixers ready to overthrow when Philadelphia swept.
This Boston team – inferior, much less athletic than their opponent and rather young for themselves – never seems to fling. For five years, Stevens has created an ethic of precision, a drama-free laboratory in which adult men, regardless of their experience, can succeed by following the principles of distance and synchronicity. He has created exquisite systems at both ends of the floor that can be consistently applied even when the components change, which is an achievement in a league where individual talent still prevails.
"This is my second year with Coach Stevens, and I learned to trust his instinct and judgment," Horford said. "He sees certain things, he understands them."
Among all the curiosities in the catalog of the moments on Saturday evening there was another spectacle:
With the Celtics led by two in the regulation and only 1.7 seconds left The clock, the Sixers made it, Marco Belinelli on the right sideline for a turning, fading knight from the right corner who passed the buzzer.
Jayson Tatum says It feels great to have Brad Stevens believe in him and describes how the Celtics faced a similar situation in the past.
Belinelli's right foot was right on the bow and made the basket a 2-pointer -89. But for two of the four technicians who operate the confetti cannons in Philadelphia, the hysteria and celebration triggered by the shot signaled a victory for the Sixers, and thus an explosion of thousands of slips of rectangular paper that had been removed from the court a few minutes earlier could start.
Following the game, the technicians scolded the miscue as they rowed the cannons and accompanying gas tanks through the guts of Wells Fargo Arena. Who was the first person to turn his valve? Why did not the traffic police on the headset set the tone? One of the two canonists, who shot prematurely – he declined to give his name – blamed a nearby cameraman, who signaled a 3 when Belinelli's shot fell through the net. "Can you belive that?"