Things looked good in the fourth quarter as the Boston Celtics were taking advantage of a big night from Jaylen Brown with Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid in foul trouble throughout the second half.
But then Ben Simmons took over down the stretch, taking a narrow three-point lead and all the momentum to cruise out to a 122-110 win.
With the loss, the Celtics fell to 8-6 on the season, squandering Brown’s 42 points (tying a career high), nine rebounds and three assists.
Marcus Smart had 20 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals in the contest, while Kemba Walker contributed a balanced 19 points, five assists, three steals and as many rebounds.
Embiid finished with 38 points and 11 rebounds in the win for Philadelphia, while Simmons (11 assists) and Seth Curry added 15 points apiece. Tobias Harris dropped 23 points with eight rebounds.
Here’s how it all went down:
G: Kemba Walker
G: Marcus Smart
F: Jaylen Brown
F: Grant Williams
C: Tristan Thompson
SO FAR, SO GOOD
Last time the two teams faced each other, Embiid went off to the tune of 42 points. So in the first quarter, the Celtics threw some double teams at him.
Still, the 76ers made their first nine shots of the game as things went back and forth.
But Smart had five early assists in the first quarter, including this no-look to Thompson, who added four points in the quarter off two nice passes.
Behind Brown’s 10 points and Kemba Walker’s seven, the Celtics managed a small run at the end of the quarter.
Meanwhile, Embiid was held to seven first-frame points.
They lost rookie Payton Pritchard to injury, but led 33-25 at the end of the first.
EMBIID ISN’T MISSING
Embiid was a pest against the Celtics, going 6-of-7 from the field for 16 first-half points, helping the 76ers eat a deficit of as many as 10 points.
But Robert Williams, in his first game back from his bout with COVID-19, got some solid minutes in the second quarter in a double-big lineup with Daniel Theis.
Theis had seven points off the bench in the first half, and Walker entered the break with 11 points, an assist and a steal.
Smart got hot going 2-for-2 from deep for eight points and five assists to help the Celtics maintain their lead.
Toward the end of the frame, Danny Green tied things up for Philadelphia with a 3-pointer, but Brown answered on the other side to make it 52-49 at the break.
Brown entered halftime with a game-high 17 points, as Boston benefitted from 12 turnovers from its opponent.
TYPICAL CELTICS THIRD
The Celtics and 76ers took turns taking the lead at the beginning of the third, but Embiid racked up three first-half fouls and clearly didn’t want to get his fourth.
So Boston, starting Theis in place of Grant Williams alongside Thompson, came out hard and exposed that fact.
Especially Brown, who got up to 30 points by the end of the quarter as the game began to get chippy. And with this drive, the Celtics wing helped a frustrated Embiid earn his fourth foul.
But the game remained neck-and-neck, and Pritchard (and his ballhandling) no longer being a factor hurt the Celtics.
Not to mention, Embiid was close behind Brown with 27 points by the end of the third.
But Philadelphia got out to its largest lead of the game, a seven point advantage, with 2:54 left in the quarter. They extended it to 11 points just over a minute later.
Even without Embiid on the court, Tobias Harris and Curry helped carry the load as the 76ers outscored the Celtics 42-28 to hold a 91-80 lead entering the final quarter.
SIMMONS STEPS UP
The Celtics trailed the 76ers by about 10 points for much of the quarter, but Semi Ojeleye entered the game and threw up two airballs before draining this 3-pointer.
That sent Boston off on a mini run, closing the gap to as few as three points after a big 3-pointer from Brown.
Then Ben Simmons cleaned up the 76ers’ sloppy play, making some great defensive plays which translated on the other end, allowing Philadelphia to go on a 10-0 run in a matter of 1:30.
The 76ers outscored Boston 31-30 in the fourth to hold on to the win.
Back to Boston we go. The Celtics return to action Sunday at TD Garden, where they’ll host the Cleveland Cavaliers.