Saturday, December 2, 2023

Celtics 125, 76ers 119: Seven C's score in double-figures to top short-handed Philly, remain unbeaten at home

The Celtics held off the Philadelphia 76ers in a 125-119 win Friday night at TD Garden, to remain the NBA's only unbeaten team at home.

Jayson Tatum led seven C's in double-digit scoring with 21 points on 6-of-9 from the field, before being ejected for arguing a call late in the third quarter.
"They were ready. They were ready to throw me out," Tatum said in his postgame presser. "Did I cuss? No, I didn't. I was shocked. They always say, 'Get your money's worth. You're going to get fined.' I definitely did not get my money's worth."
The All-Star forward was bringing the ball along the sideline when he lost control; while in a scramble to grab the ball, he hit Robert Covington in the face. Tatum was whistled for a foul, but after a lengthy objection he was sent off -- with already having received a technical foul back in the first half.

Derrick White also dropped 21 points (3-of-4 from deep), to go along with six rebounds and five assists, while Al Horford had a season-high output of 20 points (7-of-9 shooting), plus six rebounds and two blocks in his third consecutive start for Kristaps Porzingis (calf strain). Jrue Holiday chipped in 13 points and six assists to help Boston improve to a league's best 9-0 on their home floor and 15-4 overall.
"I thought everybody stepped up. That's just the kind of team we have," C's coach Joe Mazzulla said. "The other guys just did what they had to do to win."
The Sixers, who were without Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey -- both had a non-COVID illness -- were led by the backcourt duo of Patrick Beverly (eight rebounds, seven assists) and De'Anthony Melton in the starting lineup to finish with 26 and 21 points respectively on a combined 17-of-34 from the floor, including 7-of-17 from beyond the arc.

Covington added 18 points, with Tobias Harris and Paul Reed each contributing 14 points apiece, while ex-Celtic Marcus Morris Sr. netted 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the 76ers -- who fell to 12-7 on the season.

In a game that featured 17 ties and 16 lead changes, neither team had more than an eight point advantage at any point throughout the night.

Boston was ahead 95-91 in the final seconds of the third period, before Melton hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one for the 76ers with 8.1 seconds remaining. Following Tatum's ejection for a Flagrant 1 foul call and also for his second technical foul, Covington converted three straight free throws to put Philly up 97-95 heading into the final frame.

The C's led 111-108 with 5:08 left to play when Melton fouled out and Beverly scored on back-to-back possessions, including a 27-foot step back 3-ball to knot it up 113-113. Boston trailed 116-115 when they responded with an 8-0 spurt on buckets from Payton Pritchard (10 points all in the fourth quarter), Horford and Brown to put the Sixers away for good with 18 seconds left and a seven-point lead.
"We could have folded and found an excuse," Horford told reporters on how the team responded following Tatum's ejection. "We really rallied together and understood we had to keep competing and find a way to win. We were in a grind and those guys [76ers] were playing inspired basketball and we needed to find a way. ... I'm glad we won, because it would've been awful if we lost this game."
Despite committing 20 turnovers and being outscored in the paint 50-42, Boston shot 50.6% from the floor, including going 16-of-33 (48.5%) from long distance.

The Celtics will travel to Indiana to face the Pacers (9-8) in the single-elimination quarterfinals of the In-Season Tournament. TNT has the tip-off at 7:30 pm ET in the matchup between the No.2 and No. 3 seed of the East bracket.

Game Notes:

The 76ers hit 45.7% of their field goals, including 16-of-35 (45.7%) from 3-point range. Boston won the battle of the glass 46-42, while having eight blocks, compared to Philly's five. The Celtics dished out 25 dimes on 39 baskets to the Sixers 16 assists on 43 made shots.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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