Snapshots | OT Christmas Battle Goes to Boston
Photos: Getty Images
Fall, winter, or spring; holiday or normal day, the 76ers (22-13) know all too well how tough of an opponent the Boston Celtics (20-13) can be, especially at home.
With Kyrie Irving playing at peak level, the challenge of knocking off the C's becomes that much greater.
Despite mounting a strong second-half comeback bid, and taking an early lead in overtime, the Sixers were ultimately foiled by Irving and the Celtics, 121-114, in a thrilling Christmas Day battle at TD Garden.
It was the five-time All-Star who forced Tuesday’s extra period by nailing a heavily-contested 13-foot jumper with 36.0 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Then, after the Sixers jumped out to a five-point edge in OT, Irving drilled 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put Boston in front for good.
“For the most part, we did a really good job on both sides of the ball,” said Brett Brown. “It is a disappointing loss because of the two or three minutes remaining in overtime.”
The Celtics outscored the Sixers 13-1 over the final three and a half minutes of play, as Irving finished with 40 points (17-33 fg, 5-10 3fg, 10 reb, 3 ast), his second 40-point outing of the year.
For the Sixers, their own All-Stars, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler, provided standout performances. Embiid notched his NBA-best 30th double-double with 34 points (10-17 fg, 2-4 3fg, 12-12 ft) and 16 rebounds.
He and Butler (24 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl) combined for 24 points in a tone-changing third frame, which saw the Sixers grab an 89-86 advantage. Their margin grew as big as seven points in the fourth.
Irving, however, had the last word.
“He hit a tough shot, that’s what he does,” Butler said of Irving. “He’s done that his entire career - take and make tough shots. That’s why he’s the type of player he is, and that’s why I respect his game so much.”
Turnovers were a key subplot to Tuesdays’ contest, the second of the year between the Sixers and Boston (Boston leads the season series, 2-0). The Sixers gave the ball away 19 times, resulting in 16 extra shots (7 extra makes), and 22 points scored off turnovers for the Celtics.
Click here for a complete box score.
The Sixers didn’t leave Boston with the outcome they were looking for, but that didn’t mean the the team’s only takeaway was a loss.
Brett Brown was pleased with the production of his starting group, which combined for all but 13 of the Sixers’ points, and all but 13 of their rebounds.
“The starting five for the large majority of the game was excellent,” Brown said. “I thought the spirit was great, the energy was great.”
He also seems to feel that the Sixers, even in defeat, made progress against their longtime rival.
“I leave feeling like we’re not that far off. We always learn a lot when we’re playing against somebody like the Celtics on their home court, with the team that they have.
“I look forward to watching us evolve. We will learn from this. We leave disappointed, but I think there’s lots you’re going to point to and say it was a hell of a job, and we lost to a team that’s very tough.”
Regardless of how Tuesday’s final stats broke down between the starters and reserves, Joel Embiid gave some verbal love to the Sixers’ second-stringers.
“They come in every day and work hard and help us win. They play a huge role. They do a great job.”
There’s no doubt Ben Simmons is a competitive dude. He also seems to have an appreciation for opposing players and / or teams wired the same way.
The Boston Celtics, for sure, are no slouches, specifically at TD Garden.
“I love playing here because I know everytime I come down, it’s going to be a tough fight,” Simmons said. “In terms of their play, it was very physical.”
Some sweet, side pick-and-roll music from Jimmy and Ben highlighted a strong third quarter from the Sixers.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 25, 2018
The Sixers will head into the heart of their season-long five-game road trip, beginning a stretch of four straight visits to Western Conference opponents Thursday against the Utah Jazz. Heading into a Christmas night pairing with the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah sat 2.5 games out of the playoff race in the West. The Sixers topped the Jazz, 113-107, November 16th at The Center. Jimmy Butler netted a team-best 28 points in his home debut.