The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Boston Celtics at home on Monday 119-115 in the first game of this NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series with a superb offensive performance by James Harden, who overflowed with 45 points.
The beard was seconded by Tyrese Maxey, who contributed 26 points to the Sixers’ victory.
Harden turned in a magical performance, including a game-winning 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left, to leave Boston’s TD Garden in stunned silence as the Sixers took the series lead.
Harden’s 45 points came from 17-of-30 shooting and seven 3-pointers.
Jaylen Tatum led Boston with 39 points and 11 rebounds, while Jaylen Brown had 23 points.
The second game of this best-of-seven series will also be in Boston on Wednesday.
Harden led the team in the absence of Cameroon star Joel Embiid, who sprained his right knee during Game 3 of the first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets.
Embiid scored 52 points in the Sixers’ only regular-season win over Boston in early April.
Boston took advantage of Embiid’s absence to score freely in the paint and take a 12-point lead into the second quarter.
In the end, touchdowns from Harden and Maxey ensured the Sixers stayed in the game down the stretch.
A loose pass from Brogdon with 32 seconds left gave Maxey an easy layup to put Philadelphia up 114-113, before Tatum answered with two free throws to give Boston a 115-114 lead.
Harden then walked down the court and bided his time before hitting a 25-foot 3-pointer to give Philadelphia a 117-115 lead with seconds remaining.
Right after that, Paul Reed drew a foul to seal the victory for the Sixers with two free throws.
Boston eliminated the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.