James Harden shows out as Sixers steal Game 1 in Boston

Harden scores a playoff career high in the Sixers game 1 victory in Boston the night before Joel Embiid was announced as the NBA’s MVP


Photo courtesy of Twitter

Harden in Game 1 against Boston on Monday night

Aaron Rigby, Sports Editor

In a game where the Sixers were without their franchise player Joel Embiid, James Harden, who has a reputation of disappearing in big games in the playoffs, showed up and showed out, scoring 45 points, including a clutch go-ahead 3-pointer late in the game. 

Defense was absent for the first half of the game, especially for the Philadelphia 76ers in the first quarter, allowing the Celtics to score 38 while shooting 17-20 from the field. The Sixers trailed by only seven after one quarter of play, and neither team shot any free throws throughout the entire 12 minutes. Harden’s scoring spree began in the first quarter, as he put up 16 points.

On the defensive side of things, not much changed for either team. Tatum went on a scoring run of his own, and ended the first half with 26 points. The Celtics were able to continue to play defense without fouling, holding them once again to 0 free throws attempted in the entire quarter. Although the Celtics were able to hold the Sixers to no free throws in the entire first half, the Sixers did a great job at defending without fouling as well, holding the Celtics to only four free throws in the half. The Celtics led 66-63 heading into halftime. 

The second half came around and it was the same story for both teams, defending without fouling and keeping the game close. The Sixers did not shoot a free throw throughout the game up until the 5:37 mark in the third quarter. Heading into the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 87, which was relatively low considering the high scoring by both teams in the first half. Harden led the Sixers with 30 points and 4 assists, and Tatum led the Celtics with 34 points, nine rebounds and four assists. 

In the fourth quarter, the defensive intensity was obviously turned up by both teams. However, the Celtics seemed to have forgotten how to defend without fouling, putting the Sixers in the bonus with 8:37 remaining in the game. A few traded buckets and injury scares later, the Celtics led by four at 111-107. Maxey ran up the court and quickly scored a layup with 1:38 remaining to cut the lead to two points. The referees blew their whistles and called a blocking foul on Marcus Smart, which put Maxey on the free throw line.

After officials reviewed the play, the call was confirmed a block foul, and Maxey went to the line to cut the Celtics’ lead to just one point. Just a few plays later, the Sixers trailed 113-112 with under a minute to go. The Sixers’ fantastic defensive possession led to a drained shot clock, pressuring Sixth man of the year Malcom Brogdon into a costly turnover, throwing the ball right into the hands of Maxey who dunked it on the other end. 

Despite Maxey’s amazing play, the Sixers once again trailed after a quick score by the Celtics. Harden was dribbling at the top of the key, being guarded by Al Horford, the Celtics’ biggest body on the court. Harden got to cooking and hit a go-ahead sidestep three pointer in Horford’s face. The Celtics were not able to recover from this, fouled Paul Reed, who was filling in for Embiid who missed the game with a knee injury. Reed knocked down both free throws which sealed the Sixers 119-115 victory in game 1. 

Thanks to winning game 1, the Sixers may continue to rest Embiid until game 3 back in Philadelphia. Prior to the game, Embiid was listed as doubtful, and according to reports by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sixers were “optimistic” that Embiid could potentially return for game 2. However, the goal for every road team in the NBA playoffs is to steal one game on the road and come back home with the series tied to potentially head back on the road up 3-1. With the Sixers already completing the mission of winning 1 game on the road, the Sixers may continue to rest Embiid until the team returns to Wells Fargo Center. 

Harden’s 45 point outing, which is a playoff career high for Harden, and a clutch 26 point performance by Maxey helped the Sixers steal game 1 on the road in the TD Garden. 

Last night, the Sixers had more to celebrate, as the NBA announced that Embiid was this year’s Most Valuable Player, beating out a number of talented players in the league, including Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and  Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.


“It’s been a long time coming, a lot of hard work,” Embiid told “Inside the NBA last night. “I’ve been through a lot, and I’m not just talking about basketball … it feels good. I don’t know what to say. It’s amazing.”

Sixers fans are rejoicing around the city and country as Philly heads back up 95 to take on Boston again tonight.