James Harden Delivers Vintage Performance, Crushes Boston Celtics With Go-Ahead Three In Final Seconds

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What’s crazier to assume: that the Boston Celtics may not make it past the Eastern Conference Semifinals this year, or that James “The Beard” Harden is back? Monday night suggested the latter.

Fighting a red-hot Celtics team and a terrible pregame outfit, Harden led the Joel Embiid-less Sixers to a surprising win to take a 1-0 series lead.

James Harden Plays BIG

The thrilling 119-115 win may not seem needle-thin-close victory. But believe it or not, the Celtics were up 115-114 in the final 10 seconds. With the Sixers’ possession, Harden drilled a step-back shot from way downtown to crush Boston’s lead, 117-115. The shot was made more impressive by veteran big man Al Horford standing in the way of the shot.

Harden matched a career-high 45 postseason points. Coming off a regular season where Harden took a step back to allow Embiid to become the team’s primary option, it was good to see The Beard harken to his prime days in Houston.

Keep in mind that this guy once averaged 36.1 points in a season. Even with the easy foul calls for Harden, that’s impressive.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Philadelphia 76ers point guard Tyrese Maxey also used Game 1 to keep his ascending star rising. Maxey scored 26 points, helping Harden propel Philly over a Boston team that played fairly well.

Boston Shows Up At TD Garden… Still Lose

The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 62 points, adding 20 off the bench from reigning Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon. A different result could have transpired had Boston shored up the lanes against Philly’s backcourt; it just wasn’t the Celtics’ night.

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Harden, a 10-time All-Star with no rings, was serious about winning Game 1. Another highlight of the night was Harden warning the team “It’s 1 game …,” not dwelling on his Herculean effort and showing he’s focused on winning the series instead.

The Sixers will have to wait and see if Harden can keep up the production, should Joel Embiid miss more games due to his LCL injury.

Keep in mind that Boston has been led by a rookie head coach. Normally it’s the vets that make it far in the postseason; will C’s head coach Joe Mazzulla step up in the face of a deficit … we will soon find out.

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals will return to TD Garden on Wednesday.

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Written by Alejandro Avila

Alejandro Avila lives in Southern California and previously covered news for the LA Football Network. Jeopardy expert and grumpy sports fan that has watched every movie.

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