2/26/2023 by Jordan Pagkalinawan
The Boston Celtics extended their winning streak to three Saturday night, following a 110-107 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers took control in the first quarter, with their largest lead coming at 28-19 with two minutes remaining in the first quarter. From there, Boston strung together a 9-2 run to end the period. Jaylen Brown’s jumper tied the game at 30 with 11:12 to go in the second quarter.
The Celtics would capitalize on opportunities from that moment forward, at one point leading 39-31 with 8:35 left in the period. Philadelphia responded accordingly, as they regained the lead from a P.J. Tucker three-pointer with 5:14 remaining. Despite Marcus Smart’s three-pointer that brought Boston within one with 2:23 left, the offense remained stagnant. The Sixers would enter halftime with a 56-50 lead.
Philadelphia opened the third quarter strong, with an 8-2 run capped off by a De’Anthony Melton three that gave them a 64-52 lead with 9:34 remaining. Harden’s three at the 8:21 mark gave them their largest lead of the evening, a 15-point margin. The Celtics fought back, however, as Al Horford’s triple brought the deficit to four, 75-71, with three minutes to go. The 6’10” big man buried another three that put Boston within one, and Jayson Tatum’s stepback three ultimately gave the Celtics the lead, 80-78, with 38 seconds left.
Tatum’s triple gave Boston the momentum it needed in the fourth, as a dunk by Robert Williams III and a triple from Derrick White put them up by seven, 85-78, with 11:16 to go. The Celtics would gain more separation as time went on. They led 95-85 with 7:11 to play. Philadelphia rallied back with an 8-2 run, making it a 95-93 ball game with 4:09 remaining.
The Celtic’s dynamic duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum continued to perform under pressure, giving Boston a 102-97 lead with under two minutes left. Still, the Sixers refused to quit. Harden found Maxey for a two-pointer that put Philadelphia up 103-102 with 1:56 left, and Al Horford buried his fifth three of the game to help Boston regain the lead shortly after. With the Celtics leading 107-103 at the one-minute mark, Harden and Embiid were unphased at the free-throw line. The duo each drained a pair of free throws, and the game was tied at 107 with ten seconds left.
Following a Boston timeout, Jayson Tatum pulled up for a top-of-the-key three and drained it. With 1.3 ticks left, Embiid heaved a 70-foot prayer in an attempt to tie the game. It went in but didn’t count, and the Celtics walked out of Philadelphia with their 44th victory of the season.
Tatum has been known for stepping up in big moments. The 24-year-old has made 9 of 18 field goals in the final minute of close games this season, and last night marked his first clutch triple of the year.
As he told reporters postgame, “I dream about taking those shots.”
The MVP of this year’s All-Star game, Tatum finished with 18 points—including three three-pointers—13 rebounds and six assists. Brown led Boston with 26 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Horford’s perimeter prowess showed with his 15 points and five threes, and Derrick White contributed 18 points off the bench.
Conversely, Embiid put up 41 points in Philadelphia’s loss, adding 12 rebounds, three assists and five blocks in the process. The six-time All-Star, an 86% free-throw shooter, nailed 17 of 18 free-throws last night. Harden finished with 21 points, six rebounds and eight assists, and forward Tobias Harris tallied 19 points with three triples.
While Boston maintains the best record in the league at 44-17, the Sixers are now 39-20. The Celtics will look to make it four in a row when they take on the New York Knicks on Monday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 PM EST.