Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
#21 Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers surrounded by Boston Celtics players. 76ers France/Twitter


  • James Harden has carried the Philadelphia 76ers in both of their wins so far
  • However, the Boston Celtics have relied on a well-balanced attack to also take two games
  • The winner of Game 5 will claim a decisive 3-2 lead

Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves in the midst of a massive battle with Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference, and there is reason to believe both teams have equal chances of advancing.

James Harden, who was tasked with being a facilitator for much of the season, turned back the clock in Game 1 to ensure that the Sixers would be able to keep their heads above water despite not having the 2022-23 NBA MVP available to play.

He happily rose to the occasion and matched his playoff career high of 45 points plus a step-back three-pointer over Al Horford in the dying moments of the fourth quarter to stun the Celtics on their home floor.

As expected, the franchise that is viewed by many oddsmakers as the ones to lift the Larry O'Brien trophy entering the postseason responded in a big way. Tatum was practically invisible in Game 2, but Jaylen Brown picked up the slack with 25 points. It certainly helped him out that this season's Sixth Man of the Year poured in 23 points off the bench, while starters Derrick White and Marcus Smart had 15 points apiece to rout the Sixers, 121-87.

Game 3 was an all-out combined effort by the Celtics as Tatum and Brown combined for 50 points, while the backcourt duo of White and Smart amassed 28 points together, and Al Horford had 17 big points as they took a 2-1 series lead.

But in Game 4, the Celtics' miscues late in the game allowed the duel to extend to overtime, which led to the Sixers putting on another masterclass of scoring led by Harden and Embiid.

Including the dagger three-point marker, Harden's 42 points combined with Embiid's double-double of 34 points and 13 rebounds and Tyrese Maxey's 14 points ensured the series was tied entering Game 5, taking Game 4 by a score of 116-115.

Based on how much the Sixers' success hinges on getting their top two stars to put up big numbers for even just a shot at winning, their chances of taking a much-needed 3-2 lead are very slim.

Unless Maxey and Tobias Harris are able to make the tough shots that they love taking, the Sixers' offense will be forced to give Harden and Embiid extended minutes that may lead to complications down the line.

As for the Celtics, they have looked every bit as dominant as the names on their roster would suggest, and it would not be surprising for head coach Joe Mazzulla to stick with what has worked so far – a willingness to get everyone on the floor involved.

One thing is for sure for both teams, though. Game 5 will see some intense plays on both ends of the floor as the winner of Game 5 takes the series more often than not.

Game 5 takes place at the famed TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. EDT on TNT.

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics gestures during the fourth quarter in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden on May 15, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. Adam Glanzman/Getty Images