‘Just had me really ready to play’: The Celtics were unbothered by Joel Embiid’s MVP ceremony en route to Game 3 win

"You could feel the energy from the crowd in the building."

Jayson Tatum led the way for the Celtics in Game 3, scoring 27 points. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

There was a bit of a delay to the start of the Celtics’ Game 3 matchup against the 76ers. Star center Joel Embiid was awarded his MVP trophy in front of his home crowd at Wells Fargo Center in a several-minute-long ceremony on Friday.

The delay didn’t affect the Celtics one bit. They got off to a 14-4 start in the game’s opening minutes en route to a 114-102 win, giving them a 2-1 series lead.

Embiid’s ceremony might have even helped the Celtics. Jayson Tatum explained how he used the extra time to help prepare for the game.

“I was in the back during the ceremony,” Tatum told reporters. “That’s not because he got the award today. I always go. I’ve got a routine when the buzzer sounds before they do the anthem and the intros, so it’s not nothing different. I could hear it.


“They had it on the TV so I saw it and it just had me really ready to play. You could feel the energy from the crowd in the building. I’m happy for him. He earned it. He deserved it. I’m just focused on trying to win the game.”

Tatum certainly played like a player that was ready to go. He scored eight points and had an assist less than four minutes into the game.

The Celtics’ star wasn’t alone in feeling extra prepared ahead of Friday’s game with the MVP ceremony going on. Both guard Malcolm Brogdon and center Al Horford told reporters they were “locked in” for Game 3, with Horford adding “it didn’t affect us.”

But the Celtics hit a bit of turbulence after their hot start. The 76ers actually battled to trade turns with the Celtics to take the lead late in the first quarter and into the early minutes of the second quarter.

Boston took a solid lead late in the first half and carried it for much of the second. It was never able to fully pull away during that stretch, with Philadelphia cutting Boston’s lead to a one-score or two-score game at multiple points.


Tatum also began to struggle, missing eight consecutive 3-pointers after getting the first two to fall.

The Celtics’ MVP candidate took his turn to respond in the game’s final minutes. Tatum made a tough, 2-point turnaround shot over Tobias Harris with 2:40 left to extend the Celtics’ lead to 105-96. Following a James Harden 3-pointer to cut the lead to six, Tatum answered back with a 3-pointer of his own over Harris again.

Finally, Tatum hit a pair of free throws on the Celtics’ next possession to give them a 110-100 lead with 1:18 remaining, icing the game for Boston.

The seven straight points scored by Tatum gave him 27 on the night, a team-high. As the Celtics battled to take the series lead in a tough road environment, Tatum couldn’t help but enjoy the moment.

“That’s the fun part of the playoffs is playing on the road,” Tatum said. “The environment was electric tonight. Embiid got his MVP trophy. You could feel the energy. Just being a competitor, you like being part of games like that.”

Boston’s other star, Jaylen Brown, also wasn’t phased by Embiid’s MVP ceremony.

“We knew it was going to be great energy in here,” Brown said. “We knew he was receiving his MVP award, which I still think was well deserved. We knew that we were going to take a tremendous shot from that in the first half. We knew that we had to play 48 minutes and weather the storm. We knew that the officiating was going to be what it was. Whether it was how we felt about it, we found a way to get a win.


“I think we were prepared and we weren’t surprised as we’ve been there before and it led to a victory.”

Brown may have caused a storm for the 76ers more than he had to weather one. He was consistent on the offensive end for much of the night, scoring 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting. But he also set the tone on the opening tip, picking up Harden from three-quarters court to guard him.

That was the start of a tough night for Harden, who scored 16 points on a miserable 3-of-14 shooting from the field while mostly being guarded by Brown.

The Celtics won’t have to deal with any pregame ceremonies in Game 4. But they’ll still have to be locked in if they want to hold a series lead going into Game 5.


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