The Boston Celtics are legitimate contenders for the NBA championship this season once again, but they’re struggling a bit in the Eastern Conference semifinals versus the Philadelphia 76ers.
A big reason why has been the play of Sixers guard James Harden, who has stepped into the Wayback Machine lately.
He had 45 points in Philly’s Game 1 win without Joel Embiid, and in Game 4 on Sunday, the Celtics blew a late lead in both regulation and overtime while allowing Harden to drop 42 points on 16-of-23 shooting from the field.
Harden, who averaged 21.0 points a game in the regular season, is playing at the level he was at several years ago when he was in his prime as a member of the Houston Rockets.
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson blamed Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla and his staff, saying there is a lack of attention to detail and even implying that they haven’t put together a scouting report on Harden.
Stephen Jackson gave Vintage James Harden his props, but went IN on the Boston Celtics:
“They must don’t make scouting reports in the NBA no more.” 😳
Subscribe & watch the full #PaperRoute convo 📰 → pic.twitter.com/QuY9R27fM3
— I AM ATHLETE (@IAMATHLETEpod) May 8, 2023
Through four games, the series is tied at two wins apiece after the Sixers’ Game 4 victory, and Harden is averaging 28.8 points on 46.9 percent overall shooting and 41.7 percent from 3-point range, which resemble the numbers he regularly put up in Houston.
Overall, the Celtics have blown close games in these playoffs and haven’t fully taken care of business.
In the previous round versus the Atlanta Hawks, who were clearly an inferior team, they gave up a late lead in Game 5 and lost 119-117 when Trae Young went off in crunch time.
Boston’s defense has also been a concern — they gave up at least 120 points three times to Atlanta and have had miscues on that end of the floor at key junctures against Philly.
Celtics Coach Comments On Controversial Late Game 4 Decision