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.