PHILADELPHIA – Despite playing its second straight game without a key rotation player, the Boston Celtics did just enough to get their first win of the season, 102-92, over Philadelphia.
Boston (1-2) was led by Kyrie Irving’s game-high 21 points, but it was Shane Larkin's floor game down the stretch that truly catapulted Boston to its first win of the season.
Larkin, who was seeing action in large part because Marcus Smart was out with a left ankle injury, provided a huge spark in the fourth before finishing with 10 points and four assists.
He drained a 3-pointer that tied the game at 75-all, which was part of an 18-9 Celtics run.
The Sixers (0-2) were led by J.J. Redick and Jerryd Bayless who had 19 and 18 points, respectively. Joel Embiid got off to a slow start, but finished with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Boston played with a lead for most of the first half, but Philadelphia took over with a 7-0 run to end the second quarter and had the Celtics playing catch-up for all of the third and some of the fourth quarter.
Boston was once again short-handed, with Marcus Smart out with a left ankle injury. He replaced Gordon Hayward, whose left ankle injury in the first quarter of Boston’s loss to Cleveland on Tuesday, is expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.
But with players out, that opens up opportunities for others to step up.
Larkin, who walked away from a contract overseas that would have paid about $5 million more than he’s making with the Celtics, was one of those players.
Aron Baynes, who got the start with Smart out, had 10 points and eight rebounds. Boston also got another strong game off the bench from Terry Rozier who had 14 points and seven rebounds
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PHILADELPHIA – For the third time in as many games, the Boston Celtics will field a different lineup.
It will have a domino effect on Boston’s usual starters, but no one more than Al Horford who will slide over to power forward with Aron Baynes inserted into the starting lineup where he’ll be charged with trying to defend Sixers 7-footer Joel Embiid.
Meanwhile, Horford will be assigned to defend Robert Covington who is one of Philadelphia’s better perimeter scorers.
- With injuries to both ankles, Smart ruled out vs. Sixers
- Stevens says Hayward’s ‘spirits were pretty positive’ after surgery
“I feel like one of my strengths is being able to play multiple positions,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “It presents a different challenge for me, which is making sure I do a good job of covering him out on the perimeter, staying between him and the basket.”
In Philadelphia’s 120-115 season-opening loss to Washington, Covington led all Sixers with 29 points which included him going 7-for-11 from 3-point range in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.
While Covington will be Horford’s first defensive assignment, he knows he will also be called upon at times to defend Embiid who ranks among the best centers in the NBA despite having played just 32 games over the course of three NBA seasons.
In the loss to the Wizards, Embiid had a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Horford’s defense will be critical for Boston (0-2) to get its first win of the season, but the Celtics will also need him to take advantage of scoring opportunities as well.
“We have some guys down, but that creates opportunities for other guys to step up and contribute,” Horford said. “It’s going to all of us, the veterans, the young players, all of us to get that first win.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens agreed.
“I think that’s how we have to look at it,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to make a few tweaks on how we do things, obviously. Hey, it’s gonna be something that we’re going to have to do really, really well on the fly.”