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Embiid, Sixers close on series win after downing Celtics

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Los Angeles: Joel Embiid led the Philadelphia 76ers to within one win of a series triumph over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, scoring 33 points in a 115-103 road victory in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff duel.

Embiid delivered another towering performance that underscored his NBA Most Valuable Player status as the Sixers dominated from early in the first quarter to leave Boston's TD Garden home crowd in stunned silence.

The result gives the third-seeded Sixers a 3-2 series lead, meaning they can advance to the conference finals with a win in game six on home court in Philadelphia on Thursday.

The Sixers will head into that game brimming with confidence after an assured display in game five that left second-seeded Boston's postseason campaign hanging by a thread.

Embiid led the scoring in a superbly balanced Sixers offensive performance, with five players finishing in double figures.

Tyrese Maxey tormented the Celtics with 30 points, including six three-pointers, while point guard James Harden was a constant thorn in the side of the Celtics, finishing with 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

"I thought Joel did a great job of shooting when he needed to shoot, and passing when he needed to pass," Sixers coach Doc Rivers said.

"Our composure overall was good. You know they're going to make shots, they're going to make runs. That team is tough, and you've got to breathe through it. I thought our guys did that."

Rivers reserved special praise for the contribution of Harden.

"I thought James was a magician tonight. He called a perfect game. He was aggressive early on, when he needed to be aggressive. And then he got everybody else involved."

Boston coach Joe Mazzulla was left ruing what he described as his team's worst performance of the postseason.

"That was the first game of the playoffs where we didn't play well," Mazzulla said.

"We can't lose perspective because the players have played some really good basketball. But that was our first really really bad game of the playoffs.

"Doesn't come at necessarily the best time, but we just need to shift perspective and get ready for the next game."

Boston never recovered after the Sixers pulled away to lead by 14 points in the second quarter.

Although the Celtics closed the deficit to nine points at half-time they were unable to apply sustained pressure.

The Sixers always found a way of responding to keep them at arm's length throughout the second half, with Philadelphia leading by double digits for almost the entirety of the third and fourth quarters.

Boston's scoring was led by a 36-point display from Jayson Tatum while Jaylen Brown finished with 24 points. -- AFP

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