Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Celtics 117, 76ers 99: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum combine for 60 to hold off Philly at home

The Celtics (46-12) dominated the Philadelphia 76ers (33-25) 117-99 at TD Garden Tuesday night to extend their win streak to nine games.

Boston's All-Star duo combining for 60 points, proved to be too much for the undermanned Sixers, as Jaylen Brown led the team with 31 points (11-of-14 shooting), while Jayson Tatum added 29 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists. Kristaps Porzingis (5-of-12) also dropped 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the C's, who have a 7.5-game lead in the East.

While the victory wasn't pretty throughout, the Celtics made sure to use their past experiences to not only improve their play in the second half but throughout the season.
"I think we've done a really good job of going over those situations in practice, watching film, and recognize in real time when we're doing something we're not supposed to,” said Tatum in his postgame interview with NBC Sports' Abby Chinn.
Tyrese Maxey led the Joel Embiid-less 76ers with 32 points (12-of-24), while Ricky Council IV chipped in 16 points off the bench for Philly -- which has now dropped four of their last five outings.

Quiet for the majority of the game offensively, Tatum made his presence felt with a thunderous slam late in the fourth quarter that led to an eruption of the Garden faithful. He would follow it up with a big steal on the 76ers' next possession, finishing an easy dunk on the other end to officially seal Philadelphia's fate with 2:36 left to play as part of a 22-4 run.

Boston struggled defensively to start this one, allowing Buddy Hield to get going early with two 3-pointers on Philly's first two possessions. However, that changed quickly, with Derrick White (six points, six rebounds, and six assists) setting the tone on defense with his three first-quarter blocks -- including a swat on back-to-back possessions.

Even with Boston's five first-quarter blocks, the 76ers continued to stay aggressive against the Celtics' struggling defense led by Tyrese Maxey's 12 points in the period. Tatum, who made an emphasis to facilitate early with his five assists in the opening frame, needed some more help offensively from his teammates.

The Celtics would respond with an 8-0 spurt following Philly's seven unanswered points to start the second. Boston failed to build off the momentum, as the 76ers kept it close, heading into intermission only trailing by two (53-51). 

With nine first-half turnovers, the Celtics gave Philadelphia plenty of opportunities to get out in transition and disrupt Boston's half-court defense. As the team's leading scorer with 12 points alone in the second quarter, Brown was the C's lone offensive threat as their other starters combined for only 20 points -- with Tatum accounting for 12 of those.

Joe Mazzulla credited his team for flipping the script offensively in the second half and getting back to their style of basketball after only 11 3-point attempts in the first 24 minutes and hitting two of them.
"I thought in the first half we were unorganized a little bit on the offensive end, got some empty possessions, some turnovers, and they controlled the shot margin. I thought in the second half we did a great job of just getting to our spots, playing with some physicality on our drives and we controlled the shot margin," said coach Mazzulla in his postgame comments.
The Celtics went on a 13-0 run to push them to a double-digit lead to start the third frame, while also forcing Philly to miss their first seven shot attempts. A 33-point quarter (Porzingis' 12 points and Brown's seven) helped sustain an 86-75 advantage heading into the fourth, despite 12 points from Maxey.

Boston got in trouble early in the fourth allowing the 76ers to go on an 11-3 run to start the final period without Maxey on the floor. Cam Payne (13 points) made two of Philadelphia's three straight 3-pointers to cut their deficit to two (91-89) with 8:50 remaining. 

Luckily for Boston, Tatum caught fire, scoring nine of his 15 fourth-quarter points through the first seven minutes of the period.

The Celtics pulled away with some key plays down the stretch from their stars. White sprinting up the floor, dished it out to a wide-open Brown on the right wing, where he knocked down his only trey of the night. With a 3-point "chef's kiss" following the shot, Brown knew the game was under control, and the Celtics didn't look back. 

Needing to respond to the 76ers' late push, Boston knew it needed to settle down and match the intensity on both ends to get the job done. 
"Just respond to their run, it's bound to happen throughout a game. It's all about how you respond. It's usually about getting good to great shots, picking up your intensity on the defensive end, and try to limit what they're doing on the offensive end," said Tatum.
The Celtics will host the Dallas Mavericks (33-25) on Friday night, as ESPN has the tip-off at 7:30 pm ET.

Game Notes:

Boston held the 76ers to 39.4% from the field, including 33.3% (14-of-42) from 3-point range, while knocking down 52.7% of their shots and 5-of-22 (22.7%) from long distance. The Celtics dominated Philadelphia on the boards, with a 56-28 advantage, and outscored them in the paint 64-42.

The C's also got to the line often, making 34-of-37 from the charity stripe, while holding the Sixers to only 11-of-12 free throw attempts.

Ian Carrano

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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