Boston very much needed a win Wednesday night, but a blown 15-point lead proved fatal.
The C’s fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 118-115 at Wells Fargo Center. The loss all but guarantees the Celtics won’t be able to catch Philly for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Jimmy Butler put the game away with four seconds left, hitting a jumper from the baseline to up the 76ers’ advantage to five.
Kyrie Irving recorded 36 points, adding nine rebounds. Al Horford (22 points), Terry Rozier (20) and Jayson Tatum (13) also tallied double figures.
Joel Embiid led all players with 37 points (20 of which were on free throws, of which he had 21), and was one of five Sixers in double figures.
With the loss, the Celtics fall to 43-29, while the 76ers climb to 47-25 with the win.
Here’s how it all went down.
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris Sr.
C: Al Horford
C’S CONTROL FIRST
The Celtics never trailed in the first quarter, finishing the first 12 minutes with a 39-30 lead.
A quick 11-3 run kicked off the game nicely for the Celtics, but the Sixers chipped away, ultimately using a 6-0 run around the midway point to pull the game to a 19-19 tie.
Over the final 2:33, however, Boston outscored the hosts 13-6 to give themselves a bit of a cushion.
Irving led all players with 16 points in the first.
The Celtics’ lead somewhat was threatened at times in the second quarter, but they went into the break ahead 69-58 after outscoring Philly 30-28 in the frame.
Though the 76ers cut into the C’s advantage by scoring the stanza’s first four points, the Celtics started piling on to extend their lead to as many as 15. That piling on included an 8-0 run over 2:52 in the early stages.
But the 76ers certainly didn’t lie down. With just over four minutes to go, they scored six unanswered over 1:01 to trim their deficit down to nine. The two sides proceeded to trade chances over the final few minutes of the quarter.
Irving led all players with 20 points in the opening half. Aron Baynes left the game with a sprained ankle suffered by landing awkwardly on Marcus Smart’s foot. He did not return.
There were plenty of fireworks in the third period, and though the 76ers outscored the C’s 27-21 in the frame, it was Boston that took a 90-85 lead into the fourth.
It didn’t take long for things to heat up between the two sides, with Smart and Embiid sparring shortly into the second half. Smart fell after running into a pick set by Embiid in which the big man appeared to stick his elbow out. Smart responded by running after Embiid and shoving him to the floor from behind.
That led to some scuffling between the two teams, and when all was said and done, Smart was ejected.
In response to the skirmish, the Sixers played with heaps of energy, eventually tying the game at 82 with 5:03 left. It was the first time the game was deadlocked since the opening quarter. A Mike Scott free throw with 3:48 to go gave Philly its first lead of the night.
The Celtics finished the final 2:16 on a 6-0 run to regain their lead and create a bit of room.
SIXERS CLAIM BARN-BURNER
To the surprise of few, it was a thrilling finish.
With the game tied at 111 and 1:54 to play, Tobias Harris dunked to put the hosts up a pair, and Irving missed a contested 3-point attempt in response. Jimmy Butler missed two triple attempts the next trip down the floor, which allowed Tatum to get an equalizing layup in Boston’s next possession to tie the game back up with 1:07 to play.
The Sixers went back ahead on a layup by Ben Simmons, who was fouled on the play. Simmons made the free throw to put Philly up 116-113 with 40 seconds remaining in regulation.
After a timeout, Irving attempted a layup, which was blocked. Marcus Morris corralled the board, but was unable to finish the second chance. The 76ers capitalized on the opportunity, with Butler hitting a jumper to put the hosts ahead 118-113 with 4.7 seconds to play.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Celtics will continue their road trip Saturday evening against the Charlotte Hornets. Tip from Spectrum Center is set for 6 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images