James Harden leads the 76ers to an even series after the Celtics comeback to the OT win in Game 4

Losing 2-1 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday, the Philadelphia 76ers needed a win. When a comeback win seemed inevitable for the Celtics, James Harden answered the call.

His 42-point blast included a jumper with 16 seconds remaining on rule to send the game into overtime along with the game-winning 3 with 19 seconds remaining in OT.

The 76ers were 16 points clear in the second quarter, the team’s widest lead in the series. But the defending Eastern Conference champions beat Philadelphia 24-15 in the fourth, leveling the contest 96-96.

Still holding on, Harden sealed the 116-115 win from the corner. The shot was set up by Joel Embiid, who tabled the ball in doubles.

The moment was big, but Harden had an added motivation in the rousing performance.

“I put the work in. It’s all about being aggressive. Tonight it was really do or die. I had a special guest in the building,” Harden told ESPN.

Harden kept a promise and hosted fan John Hao for the game. Hao was paralyzed in a mass shooting on a Michigan state campus in February that killed three students.

“Little JH. He brought me good luck, he brought me good vibes and good energy. This game is really for him,” Harden said.

Celtics guard Marcus Smart nearly countered to win the game but didn’t get the shot off in time.

Tough first half for Tatum and Celtics

Four minutes into the game, the Celtics had seven points and two fouls, all by Jaylen Brown. On the other side, Jayson Tatum was 0 for 5 with zero points and six rebounds.

The 76ers took advantage of the Celtics’ dormant stars to take a 27-18 lead in the final minutes of the first quarter thanks to 12 points from Joel Embiid and six offensive rebounds from Tyrese Maxey. Philadelphia ended the quarter eight points clear.

Embiid recorded 34 points, 13 rebounds and four assists in the game. Maxey had eight rebounds, 14 points, two steals and a block.

After Embiid led the first, Harden took over the second. In the second quarter he scored 12 points.

Tatum scored his first points of the game with less than 30 seconds left at halftime. At the other end of the court, Harden scored his 21st point of the game. The 27-foot step back was his third 3 made, making him perfect from beyond the arc in the first half.

The Celtics went on an 8-0 run in the closing minutes of game three that was snapped by an impressive drive from Maxey. Tatum started to heat up and scored 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the third. The Celtics closed the quarter down 92-83 but drew level with the Sixers. Both teams scored 33 points in the quarter, a shift after surpassing the Celtics in the previous two periods.

A 24-foot-3 pointer from Smart midway through the fourth put the Celtics to five points, then that ridiculous series tied the game:

Tatum’s late rise resulted in a total of 24 points, 18 rebounds, six assists and four steals. Brown and Smart scored 23 and 21 points, respectively.

Tatum was 1 out of 6 from deep. His only 3-pointer came with 26.4 seconds of overtime left and appeared to come after she pushed Maxey for some extra space. 76ers head coach Doc Rivers didn’t hold back as he spoke about it after the game, calling the missed call “terrible.”

Prior to final possession of overtime, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla was given an opportunity to take time out. After the game, he told reporters it wasn’t necessary.

‚ÄúThat was the game, we just had to play at a little more pace. We had the right matchup, Jayson [Tatum] went downhill and made the right play on the rim,” he said called.

Mazzulla and the Celtics will try to regroup before hosting the 76ers for Game 5 of the series on Tuesday.


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