Sunday, October 1 2023
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There’s a trend going on in these NBA playoffs where teams playing without their superstar are continually finding ways to win games. Consider: Paul George doesn’t play Game 1 against the Suns, and the Clippers wins. Ja Morant doesn’t play Game 2 against the Lakers, and the Grizzlies win. Giannis Antetokounmpo is out for Game 2 against Miami, and the Bucks win. Draymond Green is out for Game 3 against Sacramento, and the Warriors win. 

On Monday it was the 76ers, playing without Joel Embiid, defeating the Celtics in Game 1 of their second-round series behind a masterful performance from James Harden, who finished with 45 points — tying his playoff career high — including the game-winning 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds remaining. 

Speaking of trends, that shot bucked a historically bad one for Harden, who entered Monday’s game 1 for 12 (8.3%) on potential game-tying or go-ahead shots inside the final 24 seconds of a playoff game. 

Per CBS Sports research, that was the worst field goal percentage for any of the 29 players in the play-by-play era (1996-97) who have attempted at least seven such shots. 

Prior to Monday, the last game-tying or go-ahead shot that Harden had hit inside the final 24 seconds of a playoff game was his game-winning 14-footer against Golden State in 2016. 

At 15.3% (2 for 13), Harden moves from the worst to the fifth-worst percentage on game-tying or go-ahead playoff shots inside the final 24 seconds. Russell Westbrook is your new “leader” at 10% (1 for 10), followed by Carmelo Anthony at 12.5% (1 for 8), Jason Kidd and Jason Terry at 14.3% (1 for 7). 



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