‘Adversity Hits, We Respond’: C’s Bounce Back with Force in Philly

PHILADELPHIA – “Adversity hits, we respond.”

That’s what Celtics big man Al Horford tweeted Tuesday night following a thrilling, 112-109 bounce-back win in Philadelphia.

The adversity was in reference to a pair of frustrating losses the Celtics had just suffered at home. Last Thursday, they coughed up an 18-point lead to the Los Angeles Lakers, and two nights later, they let a 28-point advantage slip from their grasp against the Clippers.

The team was understandably discouraged following both losses, and particularly after the second defeat. However, the C’s came into Philly with their heads held high Tuesday night, having the utmost confidence that they’d be able to take down one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference on its home court, even without leading scorer Kyrie Irving (strained right knee) on the floor to help guide them.

From the get-go, there was a positive aura in the way that Boston was playing. The C’s had attitude, tenacity and took a fearless approach against a 76ers team that was riding high after putting up a season-high 143 points on the Lakers Sunday night.

“Coming into this game we understood, Philly’s been playing at a high level,” Horford said of the Sixers, who last week added a high-volume scorer in Tobias Harris to their roster. “We had some disappointing losses at home, and I felt our backs were against the wall. We all needed to come out and set the tone, and we did that.”

The Celtics had also set the tone against the Lakers and Clippers last week, but were unable to maintain their authority over either team. This game, on the other hand, had a totally different feel to it.

“I just thought the whole night we played the right way and we just tried to stay within ourselves and we didn’t get too high or too low,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said. “We fought and that’s what you have to do to have a chance to win.”

“What I’m most proud of in our group is that we were able to sustain it,” Horford added. “We just played hard. Even if we would have lost, I was just happy our guys were really engaged through the game.”

Horford was one of the most engaged players throughout the night. He tallied 23 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals, all while matching up against one of the best big men in the league in Joel Embiid.

“He's super important to our team, obviously, to be the best that we can be,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said of his veteran big man. “I just think what he does for us is unique and certainly, against these guys, he's critical. He can stretch the floor on one end, and he can battle on the other.”

Also producing at an elite level was Gordon Hayward, who logged a game-high 26 points off the bench while tying a career-high with six 3-point makes on seven attempts. The last of those makes was the go-ahead bucket with 1:50 left in the game, which helped the C’s reverse momentum after a 7-0 Sixers run.

Though, it wasn’t just those two guys contributing. This was a well-rounded effort by the C’s, who also got a 20-point, 10 rebound performance out of Jayson Tatum and a 17-point, eight-rebound effort out of Marcus Morris.

And the best part was that no one let up at any point throughout the 48-minute journey. It was the perfect solution to put last week’s discouragement in the rearview mirror.

“This was one of the better games,” said Morris, a Philadelphia native. “Not even that we won, man. It’s the intensity everybody played with, the force everybody played with, and we just let it go. Everybody played. And it was very fun.”

More importantly, the bounce-back win served as a lesson to the team. And it’s a lesson that Stevens hopes carries over into Wednesday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons before heading into the All-Star break.

“Good teams have clunkers, but good teams respond to those with the right effort and approach,” the coach explained. "That was a good one and now we’ve got another tough one tomorrow night and we’ll see if we can play well again. We’re going to have to play with the same kind of purpose.”