Sixers, Suns get even; Jokic elbows Suns owner

by Jacob Fuller

Rob Issa, FISM News

James Harden saved the Philadelphia 76ers with another vintage performance.

Harden scored 42 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in overtime, and the 76ers beat the Boston Celtics 116-115 on Sunday to even their Eastern Conference semifinals series at 2-2.

In the Western Conference semifinals, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker each scored 36 points to help the Suns overcome Nikola Jokic’s 53-point effort and defeat the Denver Nuggets 129-124 to even their best-of-seven series at 2 games apiece.

76ERS 116, CELTICS 115

Harden hit several clutch shots for Philadelphia down the stretch and Joel Embiid added 34 points and 13 rebounds in the victory.

“I just want to win,” Harden said. “Today was do-or-die for us.”

Harden, who struggled the past two games after scoring 45 in the series opener, shined in front of his invited guest, John Hao, a paralyzed Michigan State shooting survivor.

Harden invited Hao to the game and gifted him his sneakers afterward.

“He’s strong, he’s bouncing back, he’s recovering very well,” Harden said. “I feel like it’s my job to give him that light, that smile that he deserves. Hopefully, today was one of those days where he can smile.”

Jayson Tatum scored 24, Jalen Brown had 23 and Marcus Smart added 21 for Boston, which rallied from a 15-point deficit late in the third quarter.

“I guess I’ve got to demand the ball a little bit more,” said Brown, who took three shots in the fourth quarter and none in OT. “I thought good things happened when I had it in my hands. I thought our offense was OK. We chipped away, we made big-time shots. We got great looks all game long. We just came up short in the end.”

Boston’s Al Horford had 10 points and five blocks, including a few on Embiid late in the game that frustrated the NBA’s MVP. Horford’s 3-pointer gave the Celtics a 98-90 lead late in the fourth but the Sixers rallied thanks to Harden. His floater with 16 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game.

“I put the work in. It’s all about being aggressive,” Harden said. “I had a special guest in the building.”

The series shifts to Boston for Game 5 on Tuesday night.


The Nuggets-Suns are heading back to Denver for Game 5 also on Tuesday night. The home team is undefeated in the first four games of the series.

“I’m just trying to win,” said Booker, who was 14 of 18 from the floor and is shooting 60% in the playoffs. “Throw that efficiency (stuff) out the window, I don’t care about that. Just keep going. Keep attacking, keep being aggressive. If it’s a product of getting open shots and knocking them down, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Booker and Durant got help from backup guard Landry Shamet, who nailed four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Suns hold off the Nuggets. Shamet finished with 19 points.

The Suns will have to cool down Jokic, who made 20 of 30 shots and got into an altercation with Phoenix owner Mat Ishbia.

Jokic, the MVP runner-up, grabbed the ball from Ishbia after it flew into the stands late in the second quarter. Ishbia reached for Jokic’s arm. After the ball flew backward into the crowd, Jokic raised his elbow and knocked Ishbia backward.

“The fan put the hand on me first,” Jokic said, explaining the interaction. “I thought the league was supposed to protect us. Maybe I am wrong. I know who he is, but he is a fan. Isn’t he?”

Nuggets coach Michael Malone wasn’t pleased with the way it unfolded.

“(Jokic) is going to get the ball and some fan is holding on to the ball like he wants to be part of the game. Just give the ball up, man,” Malone said.