The hottest shooter in Tuesday night's matchup between the Celtics and the 76ers was left wide open in the biggest moment of the game at Wells Fargo Center. And for the sixth time in seven attempts, Gordon Hayward delivered from beyond the arc.
Philadelphia had gone on a 7-0 run late in the fourth quarter to take a 103-102 lead over the C's, but in one swift motion, all of that momentum was erased. With 1:50 left in the game, Marcus Morris drove past Tobias Harris and into the paint, forcing Ben Simmons to leave Hayward alone in the right corner so that he could help defend the rim.
For Morris, his next decision was easy: kick it out to the guy who had been swishing the net all night long. He delivered a perfect pass, Hayward took his time lining the shot up, and buried the go-ahead bucket.
After that point, the Celtics never trailed again. Jimmy Butler missed two critical free throws that would have tied the score at 106, and then Marcus Smart hammered the nail into the coffin on a driving dunk with 23 seconds remaining to put Boston ahead by four.
The C's hung on from there for a 112-109 win, largely thanks to the clutch, go-ahead basket by Hayward.
Right off the bat Tuesday night, it was evident that there was a little extra fire in Al Horford's eyes. He was charismatic and animated from the get-go at Wells Fargo Center, and even got called for a rare technical foul less than five minutes into the game after arguing a call.
For the 76ers, this was a bad sign.
Horford used that tenacity to his advantage, as he had one of his best all-around performances of the season.
On the offensive side of the ball, he attempted a team-high 16 shots, of which nine fell through the net. He finished with 23 points, falling just one shy of his season high, while also dishing out five assists. The most impressive aspect of his high-scoring effort was that Horford accomplished it against one of the best rim protectors in the league in Joel Embiid.
Defensively, Horford was just as impactful. He collected eight rebounds and snagged a season-high-tying four steals to help limit a high-octane offense to 109 points after it had just dropped 143 in regulation Sunday night against the Lakers.
Box Score Nuggets
- Gordon Hayward led all scorers with 26 points off the bench.
- Hayward knocked down 6-of-7 from 3-point range, tying his career high in long-distance makes.
- Boston's second unit held a 39-22 advantage over Philly's reserves.
- Al Horford snagged a season-high-tying four steals.
- Joel Embiid led the game in rebounds with 14.
- Philly had a 50-38 scoring advantage in the paint.
- The Sixers had more than twice as many turnovers (14) as the Celtics (six).
- Jayson Tatum logged a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
- The Celtics had three 20 point scorers – Hayward (26), Horford (23) and Tatum (20).
Quote of the Night
What I’m most proud of in our group is that we were able to sustain. We just played hard. Even if we would have lost, I was just happy our guys were really engaged through the game.
Al Horford on the team's effort.