BOSTON — Celtics head coach Ime Udoka has continued to express how he wants his group to play a brand of basketball where they’re led by what they do on the defensive end of the floor.
Udoka received that throughout much of the month of November, and with the calendar turning to December on Wednesday, he received that again against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Al Horford finished with five blocks while Robert Williams returned from a three-game absence to finish with three of his own — including the final one which came on a potential game-winning 3-pointer with the buzzer sounding. All told, their defensive efforts, along with many from others up and down the lineup, lifted Boston to a 88-87 win over the 76ers.
“Overall, when you look at their numbers, 87 points, although we gave them some easy baskets at times, made a few mistakes, when you hold the team in the 30s (shooting percentage) and to 87 points, I think we were solid throughout the game, really dug in late in the game when we had to. And, as you can see, on that last play guys scrambled around, defended at a high level there and then got the shot block.
“So, you know, not really gonna apologize for an ugly win. It happens,” Udoka continued. “Offense wasn’t clicking at all times, but guys got to go in late so proud of Jayson (Tatum), Dennis (Schroder), some of those guys got going offensively. But as we’ve said all year we were going to rely on our defense, and to hold the team to 87 (points) — you’d like to score more than 88 obviously — but we did what we were supposed to defensively and holding Joel (Embiid) to 3-for-17.”
The 76ers shot 37.1% from the floor and an abysmal 25.8% from 3-point range. Embiid, as Udoka referenced, had trouble with Horford and finished just 3-for-17 from the field. He scored six of his 13 points at the free throw line.
The Celtics now get set to travel for a five-game Western Conference road trip. Boston will face the Jazz in Utah on Friday.