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Joel Embiid, James Harden choke in Game 7 loss vs. Celtics

Sixers fans disappointed after Game 7 loss to Boston Celtics
Sixers fans disappointed after Game 7 loss to Boston Celtics 01:34

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Joel Embiid and James Harden were paired together for one goal: to win the NBA Finals. 

The duo led the Sixers to their best regular season in over 20 years, going 54-28 and securing the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, but when the stakes were high, both were absolute no-shows. 

In the biggest game of the season with a chance to go to the Eastern Conference Finals, Embiid and Harden choked in a 112-88 Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden that could prompt franchise-altering moves in the coming days. 

"We just came up short," Embiid said. 

From the start, it was a lethargic performance from Embiid. The reigning MVP could never get into a rhythm offensively against Boston's two-big-man lineup with Al Horford and Robert Williams III. 

Embiid had his worst game of the postseason with 15 points and shot 5 for 18 from the field. He's now 0-3 in Game 7s after losing to the Toronto Raptors in 2019 and the Atlanta Hawks in 2021.  

In the Embiid era, the Sixers have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs. 

The Kawhi Leonard quadruple doink sunk the Sixers' chances hopes of escaping the second round, and Embiid, Ben Simmons and company choked away the series against the Hawks, but this series loss to the Celtics was beyond the most frustrating collapse during his time in Philly. 

It's worth noting that Embiid was playing with a sprain in his right knee and battled to get back for the playoffs after missing one game, but it was still an inexcusable showing from the MVP. 

Harden had one of the more puzzling performances in recent memory in the second round against Boston. 

In Game 1 and 4, Harden was sensational. He looked like vintage Houston Harden in moments. They don't win Game 1 or 4 without him. 

But for the rest of the series, Harden was a lost cause. In Game 7, he made poor decision after poor decision. 

Like Embiid, Harden also had his worst performance of the series in Game 7. He scored 9 points and went 3 for 11 from the field with 7 assists and 6 boards. 

The game could also be Harden's last game as a Sixer with a player option looming ahead. 

And while the Sixers got absolutely nothing from both their stars, it was a whole different story for the Celtics. 

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both battled and came up big for Boston. Tatum made history by scoring the most points in a Game 7 with 51 and Brown recorded 25. The two combined for a total of 76 points, while Embiid and Harden combined for 24. 

Head coach Doc Rivers had high praise for Tatum's performance, comparing it to LeBron James' Game 6 performance in TD Garden when he coached the Celtics in 2012. 

"[Tatum] was not only unbelievable, he played just hard defensively and he didn't take a lot of bad shots," Rivers said. "I thought he got them in rhythm and he played great overall tonight."

And that was pretty much the difference of the game. The Sixers actually got solid games from their role players in the first half before they got destroyed in the third quarter. 

P.J. Tucker hit his open 3-pointers, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey made shots, but the Sixers' top guys couldn't find a way to get it done. 

It was truly a lifeless performance for the Sixers duo in what could be their last game playing in Philly together. 

But if Harden does return, Embiid belives in the tandem's chances in the future. 

"We got an unfinished job," Embiid said. "We haven't won anything, and I think we got the chance to win. Obviously going to seven games and having a chance to close out at home, which we didn't do, I still believe we got the chance to win. We got what it takes to win." 

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