The Celtics played down to the level of another opponent and dropped a winnable game in Philadelphia. With a chance to close within one game of Cleveland for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and extend their lead over Washington to 2.5 games, Boston blew a 13-point third quarter lead to the 76ers.
Philadelphia’s cavalcade of young players came up with big play after big play down the stretch, as T.J. McConnell, Dario Saric and Nik Stauskas all buried big shots to help hold off the Celtics. Saric finished with 23 points and Robert Covington added 16 points and made several big defensive plays.
Boston was sloppy with the ball all game with 18 total turnovers and couldn’t find the bottom of the net from behind the arc. Boston hit a season-low six three-pointers on 29 attempts. That was part of a 41% shooting night overall.
Al Horford did play well for Boston with 27 points, including 15 in the third quarter. But the Celtics, who worked pick and roll well with Marcus Smart and Al Horford all game, went away from it in the fourth for some reason, and Horford didn’t score down the stretch. In addition to his 27 points, Horford contributed 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
Marcus Smart ran the offense well with eight assists, but he couldn’t get his shot going, as he shot just 3 for 12 for the game. He took several tough fall-away jumpers out of post ups as well. Outside of Horford, Boston’s other four starters combined to shoot just 13 of 40 for the game—and the reserves weren’t much better. The Celtics miss Isaiah Thomas’s ability to create offense when nothing else is working.
Terry Rozier and Kelly Olynyk did contribute 14 and 12 points off the bench, respectively. But both of them were streaky. Rozier scored 12 of his 14 in the first half, and Olynyk got most of his in one stretch in the third quarter. Jaylen Brown struggled in a matchup with fellow rookies Saric and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, as he shot just 1 for 6 and scored two points.
With the loss Boston falls back to two games behind Cleveland for first place in the Eastern Conference and sits just 1.5 games in front of Washington for the number-two seed. The Celtics host the Wizards tomorrow night in what could be a huge game for determining playoff seeding.