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Celtics’ depth and a Tatum game-winner pushes them past the Sixers, 110-107

This is still not a rivalry.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics prevailed over the Philadelphia 76ers 110-107 to deny the latter their 40th win led by Masked Jaylen Brown (26 points) and a well-balanced bench unit led by Derrick White (18 points off the bench). Oh, and a Jayson Tatum game-winning 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left. Six Boston players scored in double digits as they came back from down 15 to win by three. The 76ers were naturally led by their All-Star center Joel Embiid who had an insane 40-point outing.

For the Celtics, Jayson Tatum (18 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists) struggled all night, looking out of sorts. Marcus Smart had an up and down performance, but more down than up. Jaylen Brown was aggressive, adding to his lore as a masked vigilante, and that helped keep the Celtics afloat before the bench came in to restore order in the first half. Neither of Boston’s two best bench contributors got the most run off the bench in favor of Grant Williams, presumably because of the size disparity.

For the Sixers, Joel Embiid (41 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists) put in another statistically dominant outing, and surprisingly, he actually read the floor pretty well. Typically, he struggles in that area against Boston because of the latter’s timely doubles that pushes him into panic mode, but tonight, he caught the Celtics sleeping after some soft doubles.

Tobias Harris (19 points) was an off-ball sniper, making a number of back-breaking 3-pointers early on following some decent Philly ball movement. PJ Tucker also got in on the action with his once-a-month good shooting game (making more than one shot). James Harden poured in 21 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds.

When you play against the Philadelphia 76ers, you’re going to see some freethrows. Celtics fans, don’t look at the freethrow disparity unless you want to feel some frustration. In the first half, the disparity was in the double digits, and you can’t really blame that on lack of rim aggression since the two teams shot almost an identical amount of 3-pointers in the first half. That said, even a below-average half from Tatum would have had the Celtics up.

The Celtics went down by as much as 15 to start the third quarter before getting some buckets in transition to right the ship. Things started to get shaky again as the Celtics went down by 13 before Al Horford (15 points) put up three straight 3-pointers for a personal 9-0 run. He poured in four 3-pointers total in the frame, and all of them were insanely timely.

It’s also poetic that he decided to turn into Al Curry against the Sixers of all teams. The camera even caught him barking at fans on the sidelines. All that led to Boston taking the lead on a Tatum stepback 3-pointer to end his drought.

Boston went on an 18-3 run to end the quarter to take a lead into the fourth quarter.

Just like in the second quarter, the Celtics started the fourth quarter hot on the backs of Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White, allowing Jaylen Brown to feast on easy opportunities in transition and semi-transition. It’s amazing how much more freely the offense came with those two and the Williamses on the floor. Rob Williams scored 14 points on a perfect 7-7 shooting night to go with 8 rebounds. As soon as Embiid jumped back on the court, Jaylen Brown saw lunch meat and ascended to another level, pushing Boston to a double-digit lead.

Unfortunately, Philly went on an 8-0 run to get back in the game as clutch time approached, leaving Boston with more work to do instead of an early finish.

A huge bucket from Horford helped the Celtics regain the lead after Tyrese Maxey (8 points) put the Sixers up by one with less than two minutes to go. I blacked out for a bit and woke up when the Celtics got the ball back in a tie game with 10 seconds left.

Jayson Tatum hit a stepback 3 with 1.3 seconds left to win the game even though Joel Embiid hit a 70-footer JUST after the buzzer. Joe Mazzulla ran the same play he ran against Cleveland that led to the Tatum poster on Jarrett Allen, and it ran beautifully yet again as Tatum redeemed himself from a rough night. Boston earns its 44th win, denying Philly the 40/20 contender rule.

The Celtics will take on the Knicks on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET in New York.

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