In the absence of Kyrie Irving, it was the Celtics’ veterans that led Boston to a thrilling 112-109 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
Gordon Hayward was monumental off the bench, hitting 8-of-11 shots and finishing with 26 points. Al Horford was key in matching up Philadelphia powerhouse Joel Embiid. Horford went for 23 points while providing strong defense on the Sixers center in a physical game between two Eastern Conference powers.
Jayson Tatum (20) and Marcus Morris (17) also scored in double digits for the Celtics.
Embiid finished with a team-high 23 points for the 76ers, while Jimmy Butler had 22.
The Celtics move to 36-21 with the win, while the 76ers fall to 36-21 with the loss.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris Sr.
C: Al Horford
C’s COME OUT PHYSICAL
The Celtics came out physical and bodied up Philadelphia’s scorers while taking an early 28-23 advantage after one quarter.
The teams traded baskets in the first four minutes, with the Celtics taking an early 8-4 lead before Horford was handed a technical after arguing a foul on Embiid. The C’s held on to their slight advantage before opening it up a bit in the middle of the quarter. A trio of 3-pointers — two from Hayward and another from Daniel Theis — helped the C’s pull out to a 26-17 lead with 1:50 to play.
After Jaylen Brown made it a 10-point game, Embiid came back with an and-1 as Philly ended the quarter on a 5-0 run.
NECK AND NECK
Boston continued its solid defensive play in the second quarter, keeping Philly’s juggernaut offense at bay while taking a 52-46 lead into the half.
Hayward kept a hot hand in the half, hitting his third 3-pointer early in the second to make it 33-29 as the teams remained neck and neck for the majority of the quarter. The Sixers took their first lead of the game when JJ Reddick sunk a 3-pointer to make it 39-38 with 6:40 left in the half.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Morris and Horford pushed the Boston lead to 50-44 with a minute to play. Tatum made it an 8-0 run with a transition layup.
Horford led all players with 13 points at the break, while Morris (11) and Tatum (10 ) were also in double digits.
CELTICS FIGHT BACK
After a characteristically slow start to the third that allowed the 76ers to push ahead, the Celtics came back strong to close the quarter, holding a 77-74 lead heading into the fourth.
The Sixers started the second half on a 9-0 run as the Celtics got off to a cool 0-for-4 start from the floor, allowing Philly to take a 55-52 lead 2:28 into the third quarter.
Things heated up as Ben Simmons and Tatum traded highlight-reel dunks as Philly held a 57-56 edge.
A corner three from Reddick pushed the Sixer lead to 62-56 and brought the Wells Fargo Center crowd to life as Philly made it a 16-4 run to open the half. The Celtics crept back with an 8-2 run of their own highlighted by a Theis dunk off a Tatum assist. Hayward pushed the C’s back in front with a wide-open 3-pointer to make it 67-66 with 2:55 left in the third.
Horford put the C’s up 77-70 with a 3-pointer with just under a minute to play before the Sixers made it a three-point game after four-straight points to close the quarter.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
The Celtics held on the for the win in a thrilling fourth quarter.
Embiid found his shooting hand, hitting his first 3-pointer of the game to pull the Sixers within four, trailing 83-79 with 9:56 to play. Embiid then hit another to cut the Celtic lead to 92-89 with 7:03 to play.
After being knotted 94-94, Tatum and Rozier hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the C’s up 100-94 with 5:18 to play. The Sixers roared back with a 9-2 run, with Embiid converting on an and-1 to give Philly a 103-102 lead with 2:07 left. Hayward hit another corner three to answer, making it 105-103. Smart made it 108-104 with a dunk on Emiid.
But the Sixers made it a one-point game after a Butler three-point play. Horford made it 110-107 Celtics at the charity stripe with 13.1 seconds left. Embiid layed one in with 2.4 seconds left to make it 110-109, but the Sixers would not have enough time to get the win.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Tatum spins. Tatum slams.
The Celtics return home to cap off a back-to-back with a tilt against the Detroit Pistons. Tip-off from TD Garden is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images