Kemba Walker scored 32 points and the Boston Celtics pulled away in fourth quarter to complete a first-round series sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers 110-106 on Sunday.
Jayson Tatum added 28 points and had a playoff career-high 15 rebounds for Boston, which advances to Eastern Conference semifinals and a meeting with the winner of the first-round matchup between Toronto and Brooklyn.
Boston’s win marks the first sweep in 15 playoff series meetings between the teams. It also is the third straight season that Philadelphia has failed to advance past the second round.
Joel Embiid led the 76ers with 30 points and 10 rebounds. Tobias Harris added 20 points and five rebounds despite leaving briefly after a scary fall that bloodied his left eye.
Harris was trying to contest a shot by Tatum at the 2:40 mark of the third quarter and inadvertently had his legs taken out from under him by Tatum. Harris fell on the left side of his face and laid on the court for several minutes as medical staff attended to him.
The team said he suffered a left eye laceration and was cleared of a possible concussion. He returned to the game with 5:12 left in the fourth with a bandage over his right eye.
With Harris out, Boston scored the final nine points of the third quarter as part of a 12-0 run. The Celtics’ lead grew to 96-79 in the opening minutes of the fourth.
Emotions running high
Intensity was high throughout the game, with Philadelphia’s Harris, Josh Richardson and coach Brett Brown all drawing technical fouls. Marcus Smart also received one for Boston.
The 76ers entered the playoffs without all-star guard Ben Simmons, who underwent season-ending surgery on his left knee following an injury during the seeding portion of the bubble schedule.
Philadelphia did its best to adjust without him, hanging in defensively against a Boston team that ended the regular season boasting one of the league’s most efficient offences. But the 76ers had issues scoring points down the stretch in close games.
That included Embiid, who despite posting back-to-back 30-point games in Games 2 and 3, at times struggled to keep up the scoring load in the second half of games. He also had two critical mistakes in Game 3.
The loss was the latest shortcoming for a 76ers team that entered the season with much higher aspirations after adding Al Horford in free agency to play in the frontcourt alongside Embiid and Harris.