BOSTON – A poor practice by the Boston Celtics on Thursday seemed to carry over into Friday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, one in which the Celtics began the game with what looked like a lackluster effort.
For large chunks of the game they were slow getting to loose balls, out of position defensively and playing with little edge to their game.
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Despite their obvious struggles, the Celtics still managed to escape with a 116-110 victory over the Sixers behind a strong fourth quarter.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will be the first to acknowledge that it was not one of his team’s better performances this season.
“I think you’re going to have days like that throughout the course of the season,” Stevens said. “they can’t become something you that you have too often. But you know, everybody between October and April is going to have a bad day at work.”
There were several Celtics who fell into that category in the first half and for the early stages of the third quarter.
But Boston went on a 23-8 run in the third that spilled into the fourth to lead 89-84 after a Marcus Smart steal ignited a fast-break that ended with Isaiah Thomas cruising in for a lay-up.
It was a game that featured several gut-check moments in the fourth quarter by the Celtics whose home winning streak now stands at three in a row.
And considering how poorly players thought their practice on Thursday was, finding a way to compete let alone emerge with the win, was a success in its own right.
“You try to do your best the next day,” Stevens said. “I don’t put too much thought into that; I put more thought into, you should be always as focused as you can to bring value to your team, to prepare to win. And then when you get between those lines you have to be the harder playing team. Philly was the harder playing team for the first 28 minutes of the game. You’ve got to outplay somebody to beat somebody, to beat them.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.
It wasn’t his highest-scoring game of the season, and he didn’t dominate the glass. But you would be hard-pressed to find a more significant performance by Horford in his short stint thus far as a Celtic. He finished with 19 points, 14 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out four assists along with two blocked shots.
His play in many ways justifies all those losses Philadelphia racked up the season prior to his arrival. It won’t be long before he’s the undisputed best big man in the Eastern Conference and on everyone’s short list as the best in the league. On Friday, he had 23 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and two blocked shots. And he did it in less than 26 minutes.
The 6-foot-2 guard had his best game at home this season, scoring a team-high 26 points with nine rebounds. The nine rebounds gives him 245 rebounds total for the season, which is four more than his old career-high for rebounds in a season.
He didn’t have to carry Boston in the fourth quarter on Friday, but Thomas still had a solid game for the Celtics. He finished with 24 points, but you can bet he’ll be thinking about those season-high seven turnovers he committed.
Lost in the dominance of Embiid and the clutch shooting of Horford, was the play of McConnell. The only true point guard that the Sixers have that is healthy, McConnell had nine points and a career-high 17 assists while turning the ball over just two times.
After playing arguably his best game of the season with 21 points against Utah on Tuesday, Crowder was a non-factor for most of the 30 minutes he played against Philadelphia on Friday night. He finished without scoring a single point, missing all four of his shots from the field.