Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
NBA playoffs roundup: James Harden rescues 76ers in OT thriller to even series vs. Celtics
76ers 115, Celtics 115
James Harden drained a 3-pointer with 19 seconds remaining in overtime to fuel the host Philadelphia 76ers to a back-and-forth 116-115 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday, leveling their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two wins apiece.
Harden collected 42 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds, while Joel Embiid recorded 34 points and 13 boards for the third-seeded 76ers, who snapped a two-game skid. Game 5 is Tuesday in Boston.
Harden made 16-of-23 shots from the floor — including 6-of-9 from 3-point range — to bounce back from a pair of disastrous shooting performances in Games 2 and 3. He sank just 5-of-28 shots from the floor and 2-of-13 from beyond the arc in the previous two games.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum overcame missing his first eight shots from the floor to finish with 24 points, 18 rebounds, and six assists. Jaylen Brown had 23 points, Marcus Smart added 21 points and seven assists, and Malcolm Brogdon contributed 19 with eight rebounds off the bench for the second-seeded Celtics.
Embiid sank a pair of free throws to give Philadelphia a 113-112 lead with 56 seconds left in overtime before Tatum answered by sinking a 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining. Harden countered by converting from the corner with 19 seconds left before Smart’s 3-pointer was deemed to be released after the buzzer.
Smart converted a three-point play to give Boston a 112-109 lead with 3:31 remaining in overtime. Embiid sank a mid-range jumper, however, the potential go-ahead basket was negated after he was whistled for a charge against Smart with 1:49 left, which the Sixers unsuccessfully challenged.
Earlier, P.J. Tucker converted a three-point play to forge a tie at 105-105 before being whistled for a foul on Smart, who made both free-throw attempts with 51.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Harden sank a mid-range floater to level the contest with 16.1 seconds to play, and Smart’s open 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the front rim.
The 76ers led by as much as 16 late in the third quarter, and Embiid converted a slick pass from Harden to give Philadelphia a 96-88 lead with 7:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Boston made a stand, however, as Smart drained two 3-pointers to highlight his team’s 17-4 run before Harden made a basket and Tucker converted a three-point play to forge a tie.
Suns 129, Nuggets 124
Devin Booker and Kevin Durant scored 36 points apiece, and Landry Shamet buried four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Phoenix Suns recorded a 129-124 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets on Sunday night to even their Western Conference semifinals at two games apiece.
Booker shot 14-for-18 and registered 12 assists, while Durant added 11 rebounds and six assists as fourth-seeded Phoenix won its second straight game. Shamet became a surprise hero off the bench by scoring 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.
Nikola Jokic scored 53 points, his career-best in the postseason or the regular season, and had 11 assists for top-seeded Denver. He hit 20 of 30 field-goal attempts. Jamal Murray contributed 28 points and seven assists, and Michael Porter Jr. added 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Tuesday in Denver. The home team has won every game so far.
The Suns were without veteran point guard Chris Paul (groin) for the second straight game.
Booker and Durant combined for 72 points on Sunday after teaming up for 86 in Phoenix’s Game 3 win on Friday.
In Game 4, Denver crept within 121-118 on Jokic’s three-point play and Aaron Gordon’s tip-in with 1:45 remaining. Durant made two free throws with 1:27 left to push the margin to five before Murray hit a short jumper 19 seconds later.
Phoenix’s T.J. Warren sank two free throws with 22.4 seconds remaining, and Durant added two with 13.7 seconds left as the Suns pushed the lead to 127-120 before closing it out.
Phoenix made 56.8 percent of its field-goal attempts and was 13-of-29 (44.8% from behind the arc. Shamet, who didn’t even play in Game 2, was 5-of-8 from long range.
Shamet started his hot fourth quarter with two treys in a span of 58 seconds to help the Suns take a 108-100 lead with 7:35 remaining.
He made another with 6:48 left to make it a nine-point margin. Nearly two minutes later, Shamet buried a 3-pointer from the corner to give Phoenix a 116-106 advantage with 4:56 remaining.
Denver shot 56.2 percent from the field, including 7-of-22 (31.8%) from 3-point range. Gordon scored 11 points for the Nuggets.
Jokic put up 18 points in the third quarter for the Nuggets — including 13 straight Denver points during one stretch — and Booker had 17 on 6-of-6 shooting for the Suns.
Phoenix closed with an 11-4 burst as Booker drained two treys in the final minute, giving the Suns a 98-92 lead entering into the fourth.
Durant had 21 points, and Booker had 19 as the Suns led 63-61 at halftime. Jokic scored 24 before the break for Denver.
–Field Level Media contributed to this story