BOSTON – With the first and second quarters between Boston and Philadelphia each ending in a tie, you figure the game would probably come down to who played better defense down the stretch.
And we all know how Boston’s defense has been most of this season – not great.
Well, they rose to the occasion when they needed to on Wednesday, limiting the Sixers to just two field goals (both in the final 51.8 seconds of play) over the final 7:01 to defeat the Sixers, 116-108.
Leading 103-101, Al Horford deflected a lob attempt by the Sixers that wound up in the hands of Marcus Smart who had 21 points, five rebounds and five assists. Smart, who also had a career-high eight steals, quickly passed the ball upcourt to Jae Crowder, who then gave it back to a trailing Smart whose 3-pointer put Boston ahead, 106-101.
Moments later, a hustling James Young prevented the Sixers from retrieving a Philly miss that sailed out of bounds. And that was followed by a Marcus Smart and T.J. McConnell on-the-floor scrap for a loose ball. You already know who came up with it.
Crowder then drove in for a lay-up to put Boston ahead, 108-101, with 2:54 to play, which led to a Sixers time-out. Boston continued to lock down the Sixers whose three-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of the Celtics who with the win, extended their winning streak to four in a row and 11 wins in their last 12 games.
Despite records that are miles apart, no one should have been surprised at how close Wednesday’s game between Boston and Philadelphia was. The Celtics were home for the first time in more than a week, well aware that the first game back home after a long road trip is usually a tough game. The Sixers played Boston toe-to-toe most of the game, with contributions coming from many.
Everett native Nerlens Noel, who had 16 points and six rebounds, had a put-back jam that put Philly ahead 97-96 with less than eight minutes to play.
Boston’s Isaiah Thomas came back with a pair of free throws that put Boston back on top by a point, only for Dario Saric to put the Sixers back up by one point. And there was Thomas once again leading the Celtics' charge with a driving lay-up attempt in which he was fouled on the shot. Thomas, who finished with 33 points, made the first of two free throws to tie the game at 99.
It was his 40th straight game with at least 20 points scored which tied the franchise record set by John Havlicek.