BOSTON — The Celtics had an inadvertent advantage handed to them on a silver platter right before tip-off Friday night against the 76ers.

Philadelphia had no reigning league MVP in Joel Embiid, no Tyrese Maxey, plus no Kelly Oubre, Danuel House or Nicholas Batum. That meant that 76ers head coach Nick Nurse needed to work around not having Philadelphia’s No. 1 and No. 2 options and a portion of its depth heading into a much-anticipated matchup — the third so far this season — against the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics.

And the 76ers did just that.

Sure, the Celtics ultimately escaped with a 125-119 victory, but it wasn’t the prettiest — even with Kristaps Porzingis sidelined with a calf injury. It’s Philadelphia that walks away with an encouraging feeling moving forward after hanging with the top dog in the East despite a handful of key absences.

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The Sixers leaned on their grit and toughness, forcing 11 Celtics turnovers in the first half. Philadelphia guard Patrick Beverley finished as the game’s leading scorer, contributing a season-high 26 points with eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals. By halftime, Beverley and fellow Sixers guard De’Anthony Melton had combined for 32 points, leading Philadelphia back to the locker room with a 72-69 lead before the start of the third quarter.

“We were just a little bit unorganized and our turnovers, our spacing wasn’t great,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said postgame. “… I thought we did a better job in the second half with our execution.”

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Jayson Tatum, the No. 1 option for Mazzulla, nearly cost the Celtics. In the third quarter, Tatum was ejected after confronting referees over a loose ball foul, ending the 25-year-old’s night early after scoring 21 points — unable to make up for the game-leading seven turnovers committed.

As expected, that didn’t help Boston’s bid of building a late-game scoreboard gap with Philadelphia.

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The Sixers hung around in the fourth quarter before the Celtics ultimately managed to weather their own storm and pull away to remain a perfect 9-0 at home.

Yet, even in taking a trip back to the loss column, Nurse wasn’t discouraged by the effort from the injury-riddled Sixers squad.

“You got to go play the game and you want to try to play it the right way. You wanna play it hard and you want to execute. You want to just give it everything you got, right?” Nurse said postgame, per NBC Sports Philadelphia video. “And that’s what our guys did. And hopefully, it’ll give some of these guys confidence.”

It’s likely some sense of confidence spread amongst Philadelphia’s locker room, although the Celtics have plenty of time left to shut that down and build on their NBA-best 15-4 start as the season moves on.

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Featured image via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images