Celtics hit clutch shots down stretch, squeak out 110-106 win over Sixers

Celtics hit clutch shots down stretch, squeak out 110-106 win over Sixers

BOSTON – As Brad Stevens prepped for Friday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, it became quite obvious to him that this nine-win team was better – a lot better – than their record might have suggested.

That message eventually trickled down to his players who managed to squeak out a 110-106 win over the Sixers in a game that may have been one of the tougher ones they’ve had this season and managed to win.

After a pair of free throws by Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid with 28.7 seconds to play put the Sixers ahead 106-104, Boston took the lead on an Al Horford 3-pointer with 17.2 seconds to play – arguably the biggest shot he has hit in this his first season with the Boston Celtics.


Philadelphia called a time-out, but we all knew who they were going to get the ball to.

Embiid, right?

Uh, not exactly.

The ball wound up in the hands of Ersan Ilyasova whose off-balance 3-point attempt was off the mark. The loose ball was rebounded by Amir Johnson who was immediately fouled by Embiid.

For Embiid, it would be his sixth personal foul so his night was complete.

Johnson, who had 13 points and five rebounds, made the second of the two free throws.

Philadelphia called a time-out with 6.3 seconds to play.

Coming out of the time-out, it was Ilyasova once again taking what would have been a go-ahead 3-pointer that barely grazed the rim before going out of bounds.

Brad Stevens called a quick time-out, with 2.7 seconds to play.

Boston in-bounded the ball to Isaiah Thomas who was fouled with 2.1 seconds to play which sent Thomas to the free throw line. 

Thomas, who finished with 24 points, made both free throws to seal the victory.

Horford, like most of the Celtics, didn’t seem to play with the kind of edge needed to beat a Sixers team that came in having won two straight and seeking a third consecutive win for the first time since 2014.

But in the fourth quarter, he came alive, scoring 14 of his 19 points to go with 12 rebounds and four assists.

But this Sixers team proved to be a pesky bunch, especially Embiid who at this point seems a lock to win this year’s rookie of the year award.

He would finish with 23 points and eight rebounds, showing off a strong around-the-basket game as well as the ability to knock down perimeter shots.

For the Celtics (22-14), a 23-8 run that began in the third quarter and carried over into the early portion of the fourth, put the Celtics ahead 89-84 following a lay-up by Isaiah Thomas following a Marcus Smart steal.

Philadelphia (9-25) responded with six straight to regain the lead 90-89 only for the Celtics to regain the lead and manage to fend off a Philadelphia team that just would not go away quietly.

A 3-pointer by Gerald Henderson tied the game at 104.

Boston had a chance to regain the lead on two separate possessions only to come up short.

And Embiid, a man among boys most of the night, put the Sixers ahead 106-104 with a pair of free throws with 28.7 seconds to play.

Al Horford, who had been relatively ineffective scoring the ball most of the night, scored back-to-back baskets for five points at that point equaled his scoring output through the first three quarters.

For large chunks of the game, the Sixers seemed to be in control on the court as well as in the stands.

“Trust the Pro-cess!” chants rang out loudly throughout the night by Sixers fans in attendance, a reference to the team’s efforts the past few years to rack up as many losses – and lottery pick talent – with the goal being that someday that talent would materialize into an elite, title-contending club.

Philadelphia is nowhere close to being that good, but there’s no mistaking the progress they have made this season even if their record (9-25) doesn’t necessarily reflect that growth.

NBCSB Breakfast pod: How Jayson Tatum compares to Paul Pierce

NBC Sports Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast pod: How Jayson Tatum compares to Paul Pierce

1:25 - With half of the Celtics roster on the shelf, we’ve been able to see just how great a scorer Jayson Tatum can be. A. Sherrod Blakely, Mike Girardi and Trenni Kusnierek discuss how Tatum compares to Celtics legend, Paul Pierce.

5:35 - The NFL Competition Committee is giving it their best shot at modifying the ‘catch rule’ and Tom Curran, Kyle Draper and Hardy try to wrap their heads around the proposed changes.

11:02 - The Bruins clinched a playoff berth despite losing to the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Joe Haggerty joins Tom Giles to break down the game, which included another goal by Ryan Donato and a questionable call on a high hit on David Krejci.

Report: Kyrie Irving to undergo knee exam Thursday


Report: Kyrie Irving to undergo knee exam Thursday

The second opinion on Kyrie Irving’s sore left knee will be done on Thursday, according to the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett.

Irving, who has missed the last four games, is expected to decide between having a surgical procedure performed to help alleviate some of the soreness, or continue to manage it with rest.


During the 2015 NBA Finals, Irving suffered a fractured left kneecap injury which was the beginning of Irving’s left knee issues.

While Irving has had soreness of some form during various stretches of play this season, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen him making progress recently.

“That knee is still sore,” Stevens said. “He’s worked really hard to manage it throughout the entire season. He’s had some pretty good days recently. I’m encouraged by the big picture.”

But Stevens has made it clear that he supports Irving getting a second opinion, adding that Irving’s absence is due to the knee being too sore for him to play at a level he’s accustomed to.

“He’s out because of knee soreness, not because we’re choosing to rest him,” Stevens said. “That’s the bottom line. Again, we want him to feel 110 percent. He wants to feel 110 percent. Obviously, we’re fortunate we created a cushion early on in the year with playoffs and everything else. This is not one of those situations where we’re choosing to rest someone; it’s because he has a sore knee.”