C's Find a Way in the 4th, Push Past Philly Sans Tatum

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics have found several ways to win close games this season. On Friday night, they found another by grinding past the Philadelphia 76ers, 125-119, while playing the entire fourth quarter without Jayson Tatum.

Tatum was ejected for just the second time in his career after arguing a foul call with 2.1 seconds remaining in the third quarter. At the time, Tatum had game-highs of 21 points and seven rebounds, along with a team-high four assists.

On top of that, the C’s entered the fourth quarter trailing, 97-95. And not only did they not have Tatum, but they were also without Kristaps Porzingis, who missed his third straight game with a calf strain.

However, the C’s didn’t let any of those obstacles get in their way. They buckled down and took care of business, improving to 7-3 in clutch performances (games which have a five-point differential or less within the final five minutes of regulation).

“I feel like we had a choice at that point in time,” said Al Horford. “We could've folded or found an excuse. But our group, we rallied together and understood that we just needed to keep competing and find a way to win.”

Horford played a huge part in helping Boston find a way to win. He made numerous hustle plays throughout the fourth quarter, including a chase-down block against Tobias Harris midway through the frame.

Horford scored a season-high 20 points along with six rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. He became just the fifth Celtic, age 37 or older, to score 20 points in a game, joining Robert Parish (48 times), John Havlicek (29 times), Sam Cassell (twice), and Shaquille O’Neal (twice).

Another player who stepped up late was Payton Pritchard. After going scoreless through the first three quarters, the fourth-year point guard erupted for 10 points in the final frame while playing nearly the entire period.

“That's Payton,” said head coach Joe Mazzulla. “That's why he's so competitive. That's why he does what he does. And that's why no matter what happens, you can always rely on him. And so what he did tonight is exactly what I expect from him every time his name is called. Made the right play, competed on the defensive end, pick-up points were great, ball pressure was good, got in there for rebounding, and just scored at different levels, whether it was in the paint, whether it was threes, whether it was a cut. That's him.”

Scoring wasn’t hard to come by in this one. Two Boston players scored 21 points (Tatum and Derrick White) and two more scored 20 (Horford and Jaylen Brown), making it the first time since April 2, 2021 that four different Celtics scored 20-plus in the same game.

As a whole, the C’s shot 50.6 percent from the field, 48.5 percent from long distance, and 86.1 percent from the free-throw line.

Defensively, it wasn’t their best night – at least in the first half when Philly outscored them 72-69 with two straight 36-point quarters. But in the second half, Boston clamped down and held the 76ers to just 47 total points – 25 in the third and 22 in the fourth.

“Throughout the game, we didn’t necessarily play well or up to our standards,” said Tatum. “But I love the way that we still figured out a way to win the game.”