The Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 121-114 on Christmas Day at TD Garden, but there were moments Tuesday when the game seemed in doubt for the C’s.
Take Marcus Smart’s technical foul in overtime, for instance.
Jimmy Butler knocked down a shot with about three and a half minutes remaining in OT to give the Sixers a 112-108 edge. Smart then landed a technical foul for shoving Ben Simmons after the two got tangled up under the basket. JJ Redick sunk a free throw to extend Philadelphia’s lead.
Simmons, who has a bit of a history with Boston dating back to last season, was asked after the game about the incident that led to Smart’s technical foul, and the Sixers point guard simultaneously poked fun at and praised his tenacious opponent.
The real story of Boston’s victory was Kyrie Irving’s sensational performance. He drilled a huge shot toward the end of regulation, added a pair of clutch 3-pointers in overtime and finished with 40 points as the Celtics won their second straight game following a three-game losing streak. But don’t lose sight of the physicality between Smart and Simmons.
The Celtics and Sixers have developed an interesting rivalry over the last couple of years, even though Joel Embiid might disagree thanks to Boston’s success against Philadelphia. Don’t be surprised if tensions run high the next time these Eastern Conference contenders hook up.