BOSTON -- There’s a reason why Joel Embiid is viewed by many as the best center in the NBA.
On Thursday, he played like it in finishing with the kind of stat line - 38 points, 13 rebounds, six assists - that speaks to how dominant a player he can be when properly motivated and focused which proved to be the difference in Boston’s 115-109 loss.
The loss was Boston’s second in a row, and first at home this season after having won their first 10 in a row at the TD Garden.
And Boston’s two-pronged response to Embiid - better known as Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter - did their part in matching his play offensively as they combined to score 36 points along with 14 rebounds.
But it was Embiid’s defense and the struggles he presented to Boston’s defense, that proved to be one of the keys to the game.
He only had one blocked shot, but his presence altered many others.
And while he gave up a ton of buckets to Kanter and Theis, Embiid controlled the paint in the game’s closing minutes.
On offense, Boston had no answer to limiting him and that opened things up for those around him like Tobias Harris who had 23 points and Mike Scott (15 points) who filled in for ex-Celtic Al Horford who was out due to a left knee soreness/left hamstring tightness.
From the start of training camp, we talked about how the Celtics are at their best when they have all their guys available, and anything short of that won’t work against the better teams in the East like the Sixers.
No Marcus Smart (eye infection) is always gonna hurt, but on nights like this one - and last night at Indiana for that matter - his absence stands out big-time.
Having another big like Robert Williams III (hip) could have helped as well.
And unlike most losses, the Celtics simply focus on the next game which is usually around the corner.
Not this time.
Boston will go five days without a game, giving them plenty of time to think about this one and do all they can to ensure that they’ll be better next time they step on the floor.
There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Enes Kanter.
The past couple of years, the former lottery pick has gained more notoriety for what he has going on off the court than what he does on it.
But make no mistake about it.
The way he played on Thursday night against Philadelphia is EXACTLY why he is in a Celtics uniform.
The two things that he has done throughout his entire career in the NBA - score and rebound at a fairly high level - were on display in Boston’s matchup against the Sixers on Thursday.
But it was yet another good-but-not-good-enough night for the Celtics, dropping a down-to-the-wire, 115-109 loss to the Sixers.
He finished with a near double-double of 20 points and nine rebounds, with the 20 points representing a season-high.
The ending was certainly not what the Celtics were hoping for, but Thursday’s performance was yet another step in the right direction for Kanter who has been limited most of this season because of injuries.
The night began very much like the previous night did for Kemba Walker, with a heavy dose of shot-making on his part.
On Thursday, Walker scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half with most of his shot attempts coming within the flow of the offense.
With five days before they step on the floor again, there will be some legit soul-searching for Walker who has delivered strong performances offensively in Boston’s last two games, but the Celtics came up short.
MIKE (GREAT) SCOTT
A fill-in for ex-Celtic Al Horford (left knee soreness, left hamstring tightness), Scott delivered a near-flawless shooting night by finishing with 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting - all 3-point attempts.
While he didn’t fill up the stat sheet the way Horford typically does, Scott’s shooting was a major factor in Philly’s overall play.
And while Scott did get the start, he’s still a Philly reserve whose play was reminiscent of what transpired in Indiana just 24 hours earlier when the Celtics lost to the Pacers.
It’s important to limit the big-time stars such as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. But their supporting cast has to be contained, which you can bet will be among the talking points discussed during this five-day break Boston has before setting foot back on the floor.
LATE-GAME SHOT SELECTION
By no means was Thursday’s game lost on what the Celtics did in the final five minutes of play.
But it damn sure didn’t help matters.
Certainly you have to give some of the credit to the Sixers defense. But more than anything, the Celtics simply didn’t move the ball as well as they needed to on offensive trips which led to some really bad shots taken when the game was up in the air which aided the Sixers during a 12-4 run that put them ahead 100-92.
Against a top-tier team in the East like the Sixers, every possession had to be handled with care and Boston didn’t do it with enough consistency to get the victory which would have extended their home winning streak to 11 in a row.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.