Celtics

76ers-Celtics Takeaways: Joel Embiid dominates but Enes Kanter comes through strong

76ers-Celtics Takeaways: Joel Embiid dominates but Enes Kanter comes through strong

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. 

ENES KANTER

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. 

And Kanter? 

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. 

KEMBA WALKER

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. 

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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. 

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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.

Magic's Mo Bamba gushes about Tacko Fall, who might play in Orlando homecoming

Magic's Mo Bamba gushes about Tacko Fall, who might play in Orlando homecoming

Enes Kanter's injury came at a poor time for the Boston Celtics. But Tacko Fall probably isn't complaining.

The Celtics recalled Fall from the G-League affiliate Maine Red Claws on Friday morning, meaning the 7-foot-5 rookie will be with the team in Orlando for its game against the Magic (after a little detour, per NBA reporter Keith Smith).

Fall knows Orlando well, as he played college basketball at the University of Central Florida, just down the road from the Amway Center.

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He also knows Orlando's tallest player well. Mo Bamba, the Magic's 7-foot big man, became friends with Fall through Fall's former UCF teammate Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia, who is close with Bamba.

Bamba even recommended last summer that Fall work with shooting specialist Drew Hanlen, who has helped the Senegal native become more than just the tallest guy on the court.

Bamba told reporters ahead of Friday's Celtics-Magic game he still keeps in touch with Fall.

"Every now and then, I’ll hit him up and call him or text him and check him and make sure he’s doing all right up there in cold Boston," Bamba said, via OrlandoMagic.com's John Denton.

"He’s just a really good guy. His character speaks loudly for the type of person he is. (The fan reaction he gets) is kind of expected … everyone loves Tacko. Not only is he a big person, but he really does have a big personality. He’s a good guy."

Fall made a brief cameo during Boston's preseason game in Orlando in October, but he may get some actual minutes Friday with Kanter and Robert Williams both sidelined due to injury.

After all, someone needs to match up with the 7-foot Bamba -- and the Amway Center crowd needs something to cheer about.

"I trust him to give us minutes if we need them," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Fall earlier Friday.

"I also know that there'll be plenty of green because we travel well. There'll be Celtics fans cheering for him and some UCF fans. It'll be 100 percent Tacko fans."

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics vs. Magic odds: Best NBA picks with C's as surprising underdogs

Celtics vs. Magic odds: Best NBA picks with C's as surprising underdogs

The sportsbooks apparently aren't putting much stock into the NBA standings for the Boston Celtics' matchup with the Orlando Magic.

The Celtics are listed as 1.5-point underdogs for Friday's game against the Magic despite Orlando entering with a 21-24 record, nine games behind the 29-14 C's.

Boston won't look like the same team that blew out the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, though. Jayson Tatum and Enes Kanter already have been ruled out with injuries, while Jaylen Brown is questionable as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

Do those injuries give the Magic an edge, or will the Celtics prove the sportsbooks wrong by notching their third consecutive win?

Below are our betting predictions for Celtics-Magic, as well as two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic, 7 p.m. ET

Moneyline: The Celtics have lost four of their last five games to Orlando, which may also explain why they're underdogs. But the Magic have dropped three of four, while Boston rolled without Brown on Wednesday night. I'll take the money on the Celtics (+105).

Point Spread: The beauty of these Celtics (+1.5) is that Tatum and Brown's absence just means more opportunities for Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart. Boston has covered in five of its last seven games despite dealing with several injuries and should get the job done here.

Point Total: The over is tempting considering the Celtics are averaging 126 points over their last four games. But they may have to win ugly here against a Magic team that plays at the third-slowest pace in the NBA. Give me the UNDER on the 212.5 point total

Darren's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 60-35-1 (62.5% success rate)

NBA Locks of the Night

Memphis Grizzlies (-1) at Detroit Pistons: The Grizzlies had won seven of eight before the Celtics trounced them Wednesday. They get back on track against a Pistons team that's played just one of its last eight games against a team above .500 -- and gone 4-4 in that span.

Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans (-4): Even if Zion Williamson doesn't hit four 3-pointers, his presence should energize the Pelicans at home against a Nuggets team missing four key rotation players.

Darren's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 32-31-1 (50% success rate)

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.