That big, Boston-sized monkey is still on the Sixers’ backs.
The Sixers fell to the Celtics on Tuesday night, 112-109, in an intense matchup at Wells Fargo Center, extending their losing streak against Boston to five games.
Tobias Harris (10 points on 4 for 14 shooting) missed a three-point attempt to tie the game with 6.6 seconds left. Joel Embiid got the offensive rebound and decided to lay it in with 2.4 seconds to go.
After two free throws from Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler wasn’t able to get off a desperation heave as time expired.
• Butler, who had 22 points, has played at a high level since the Harris trade. He’s defended opposing point guards well and struck the right balance between assertiveness and unselfishness. Butler scored the first basket to start the third quarter for the Sixers, knocking down a jumper from the right wing to start a 9-0 run to begin the second half.
Butler did miss two big free throws down the stretch after being fouled on a three-pointer with the Sixers down 106-103.
• The Sixers’ offense was out of sync in the first quarter as the team started 6 for 17 from the floor. The rapid ball movement and crisp passing of the new-look Sixers’ first two wins was lacking, with a lot of long, stagnant possessions, and the Celtics jumped out to a 28-18 lead.
You expect to see those kind of sluggish, disjointed stints on occasion, but give the Sixers credit for shrugging it off and finding more of a groove in the second half.
• Ben Simmons’ struggles against the Celtics have been well-documented. He wasn’t a non-factor Tuesday night, though Boston again did a good job neutralizing him in transition and sagging off him in the half court.
Simmons made a couple of big plays down the stretch, including a strong offensive rebound and layup to cut the Celtics’ lead to 102-100.
He finished with 16 points, five rebounds and five assists.
• Just about every night, Embiid has a massive advantage over whoever is guarding him. The Celtics and Al Horford are an exception. Horford defends Embiid incredibly well, ceding little ground in the post while still avoiding fouls.
Embiid knocked down two three-point jumpers early in the fourth quarter and raised his arms as if to say, “Finally.”
Embiid managed 23 points and 14 rebounds, while Horford had 23 points.
• After making his Sixers debut in garbage time of Sunday’s win over the Lakers, Jonathon Simmons got his first chance at regular rotation minutes. Simmons posted seven points in 14 minutes. He was tasked with sticking Terry Rozier and played solid on-ball defense. His perimeter defense could certainly come in handy in a playoff series against Boston.
Simmons, James Ennis and Furkan Korkmaz are in a “quiet tournament” for minutes, head coach Brett Brown said pregame. Ennis watched from the bench Tuesday night.
It’s this writer’s opinion that Korkmaz should be the odd man out because of his weakness as a defender and inconsistency as a shooter. You sense that Brown is still in the early stages of experimenting with his rotation and trying to determine the best combinations for the playoffs.
• Brown stuck with Boban Marjanovic as his backup center despite the defensive matchup against Daniel Theis and Horford being less than ideal for the lumbering Marjanovic.
It was a mixed bag defensively with Marjanovic in the game. He wasn’t a liability — and it didn’t hurt that he also chipped in with four points and six rebounds — but the Celtics took advantage of the fact that he wasn’t going to roam far from the paint.
• The Sixers announced Tuesday that Shake Milton had surgery to address a fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his right hand suffered while playing for the Blue Coats on Feb. 5. He will be reevaluated in two to three weeks.
• The NBA says Magic Johnson did not break any rules when he spoke Sunday about possibly working with Simmons.
Simmons is aware of the buzz around the whole mini-drama and cracked a joke in his typical deadpan style in the locker room before the game.
Ben Simmons walked into the locker room, sat down and said, "That's like the 10th time Magic has called me today."— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) February 13, 2019
After pausing for a second, he clarified that he was, of course, joking.
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