Kyrie Irving

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams


BOSTON — What a difference two games make.

The Sixers entered this week 0-8 against the top three Eastern Conference teams: the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors. By Thursday night, they had picked up two straight wins over them.

The Sixers followed up Monday’s victory over the Raptors with an 89-80 win over the Celtics (see observations)

“I think we are in a good position right now,” Ben Simmons said. “Still a lot of improvement, a lot of things we’ve got to pick up on, but I think we are doing really well and getting better.” 

All season long, a downfall of the Sixers has been giving up leads. Ten, 15, 20 points have been erased just like that. 

The Sixers’ largest advantage was 21 points in the last two games, and in both instances their opponents fought back. The Raptors cut the lead to one with three minutes to play; the Celtics got within seven with two minutes on the clock.

Unlike in the past, the Sixers held on for wins.

“We’ve been in that situation too many times,” Joel Embiid said. “We just have to stay calm and keep moving the ball. We made a couple mistakes, but everything was fine and we got the win.” 

The game was missing two key players. The Celtics were shorthanded without their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving (shoulder). The Sixers were down starting shooting guard JJ Redick (leg). Brett Brown considered their absences “almost a wash.” 

Newly-announced All-Star starter Embiid led all players with 26 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, his 19th double-double of the season. 

“They are still a great team,” Brown said of the Celtics. “For us to come in here and build a lead, hold onto the lead, close out the game, and at times not in a pretty way, is a fantastic result for us.” 

With the win, the Sixers snapped a seven-game losing streak at TD Garden dating back to April 4, 2014. They also avoided a regular-season sweep by the Celtics. 

The Sixers moved above .500 (21-20) and into the eight spot in the East. The Celtics and Raptors could be postseason pairings if the Sixers hold their ground in the standings, a scenario they are well aware of in these regular-season games. 

“I don’t know what seed we are going to be, but that’s a potential matchup in the playoffs,” Embiid said. “We always want to come out and try to dominate and let them know that it’s not going to be easy.”

Joel Embiid shows Celtics why he's an All-Star

Joel Embiid shows Celtics why he's an All-Star


BOSTON — The Sixers narrowly avoided a regular-season sweep by the Celtics with a 89-80 win Thursday night.

The Kyrie Irving-less Celtics cut the Sixers’ 21-point lead down to seven with two minutes to play, a margin that seemed closer because of Boston’s swarming defense.

The Sixers went scoreless for two minutes before T.J. McConnell hit a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left. They snapped a seven-game losing skid at TD Garden dating back to their last road victory there on April 4, 2014.

The Sixers are back above .500 at 21-20. The Celtics dropped to 34-12. 

• On the night Joel Embiid was named an All-Star starter (see story), he posted his 19th double-double and 24th 20-point game of the season. Embiid finished with 26 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in 35 minutes.

• Celtics leading scorer Irving did not play because of a sore left shoulder.

“It’s nothing too crazy,” Irving said. “It was just giving me a little discomfort over the last few weeks. I’ve been playing through it.”

Irving averaged 25.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists in three games against the Sixers this season.

• The Celtics struggled offensively in the second quarter (13 points). The Sixers held them to 32 points in the first half, the fewest first-half points by the Celtics against the Sixers since Dec. 28, 2012. Overall, the Celtics’ 80 points were a season low.

• The Sixers led the Celtics, 71-53, after the third quarter. In all of their storied meetings, this was only the fourth time in Sixers history they held the Celtics to 53 points or less through the third.

• The Celtics entered the night tied for eighth-fewest turnovers per game (13.3). They uncharacteristically committed 15 in the first half alone (19 on the night).

• Dario Saric added 16 points and six rebounds. Ben Simmons recorded eight points, seven rebounds and four assists.

• McConnell gave another boost off the bench (15 points). He scored nine points (4 for 4 from the field) in the third alone.

• Bigs Al Horford and Marcus Morris led the Celtics with 14 points each. Jaylen Brown broke out of a scoreless first half to finish with 12 points.

• Justin Anderson saw increased minutes (16) in the absence of JJ Redick (left fibula injury). Jerryd Bayless started at shooting guard.

• Two-way contract player James Young returned to Boston, where he spent his first three NBA seasons with the Celtics.

Did dinosaurs really exist? JJ Redick and Kyrie Irving aren't so sure

AP Images

Did dinosaurs really exist? JJ Redick and Kyrie Irving aren't so sure

JJ Redick sat down with Kyrie Irving late on Thursday night after the Celtics put a whooping on the Sixers for the better half of a game in London.

Two of the NBA’s more interesting people talked about a ton of stuff, from conspiracy theories, to Duke basketball, to NBA super powers (like Kyrie's sick handle), to Kyrie's journey to Boston and his coach there.

The Ringer podcast wastes no time and jumps right into Kyrie's flat eartherism, which he admits may have been hastily stated after seeing some stuff on social media.

“The actual intent behind it, just do your own research,” Kyrie says to start off the podcast, never really saying whether he truly believes the Earth is flat.

The Sixers' shooter seems to be into conspiracy theories of his own.

“I think it’s good to question a lot of things,” Redick says. “I’m not entirely convinced that dinosaurs existed.”

In one 30-second span, the convo goes from “there was collusion” in the Trump-Russia situation to “have you seen the new Taco Bell commercial?”

These guys are out there.

And the conspiracy theories aren't limited to global conspiracies. JJ thinks he saw one in London last night as well during Philadelphia's loss to Boston.

“The one rim was so [bleeping] crooked,” Redick said of the hoops at O2 Arena. 

The one the Celtics shot at in the first half and the one the Sixers shot at in the second half. Kyrie didn't disagree.

They talk about some Duke stuff and Coach K., which I tuned out. Then they get into NBA Super Powers and Kyrie shares some interesting nuggets about how he developed his handle.

You can listen to the entire wide-ranging conversation below.