That’s probably the best word to describe this Boston Celtics win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Boston got down a couple of different times, including by as many as 15 points, but kept fighting and pushing and got back into the game each time.
It’s not always pretty with this Celtics group, but it’s usually pretty effective. Barring disaster, this victory should have clinched a top-two seed for Boston. The Celtics have a four-game lead on the Sixers and own the tiebreaker, making it effectively a five-game lead. That should be more than enough to hold off Philadelphia with 21 games to play.
2. Jaylen Brown went through a stretch in the middle of the fourth quarter where he took over the game. Brown scored 10-of-12 points for Boston and he created the other basket. It was a dominating run for the Celtics All-Star.
It started easily enough with this runner in the lane off a nice dribble-move:
This was an outstanding outlet pass by Grant Williams to hit Brown on the run for the dunk:
This is one of the better passes Brown has made in his career, as Rob Williams sprinted the floor past Joel Embiid for the dunk:
After picking Embiid’s pocket, Brown was off to the races again:
On this one, Brown challenged Embiid, took the contact and got the nice bounce:
After a two-minute scoring lull got the Sixers back in the game, Brown came up with this clutch jumper:
Just a monster run. When the Celtics needed it most, Brown delivered.
3. When Boston fell behind by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, it was put up or shut up time. As so often happens, the team’s veteran was there to put up, as Al Horford came up huge.
It’s pretty rare that Horford steps into a transition three on the wing, but this was a no-hesitation pull:
On this play, no one bothered to stop the ball, so Horford walked right into a pullup three-pointer:
On the next trip, Horford kept it going off a nice drive-and-kick from Malcolm Brogdon:
And for a fourth time in the third quarter, Horford let it fly off a nice pick-and-pop pass from Jayson Tatum:
Horford wasn’t done, as he had one more big shot in him after Philadelphia had taken the lead late:
4. Jayson Tatum played relatively poorly for about 45 minutes of this one. He had a lot of turnovers, wasn’t fully locked in on defense and couldn’t make a shot. But superstars deliver in the clutch and Tatum is the Celtics superstar.
This is a set play by Boston to get Tatum a look behind a nice screen from Grant Williams:
Much like the Indiana Pacers game coming out of the All-Star break, Tatum came up with a huge tip-in late:
But Tatum saved his best for last. This is a Brad Stevens throwback ATO, and Joe Mazzulla admitted as much postgame. Stevens used to run this look to Isaiah Thomas the ball on the move, where Thomas could either pull up for the jumper or get into the paint.
The pass is perfect from Marcus Smart and Tatum is on-time with the game-winner, while Joel Embiid was juuuuuuuuust late:
5. Speaking of Joel Embiid, he didn’t really falter down the stretch in this game, as he has so often against Boston. But the Celtics did a good job of making him earn everything. This time around, Embiid made a couple of a jumpers, and Boston fouled him a few times to make him earn it at the line. Nothing was easy for him.
That’s become a familiar script for the Celtics when playing the Embiid Sixers. Let him get his early, and then hope he’ll settle for jumpers late in the game. If he makes them, you tip your cap and move on. More often than not, Embiid doesn’t have the legs. Expect nothing different should these teams meet in the postseason.
6. Derrick White is oozing with confidence right now. He’s getting to his spots and shooting without any hesitation.
This is a good drive against some tight defense, but White gets where he wants to be with just enough space:
White uses that high ball-screen from Rob Williams that he likes, with Joel Embiid laying back around the paint. The result is walking into a pullup triple:
This one is great, because there’s no hesitation. Brown doesn’t hesitate to make the extra pass to White, and White lets it fly immediately from the corner:
7. Rob Williams kind of quietly turned in a big night. He did a good job on defense and a really nice job on the boards. Hitting baseline jumpers like this is just a bonus. Williams has nice enough touch, that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this shot eventually become a part of his arsenal on a semi-regular basis. If it does…
8. One nitpick: The Celtics have to be better about fouling. Yes, Joel Embiid and James Harden are going to draw a ton of fouls. Many are legitimate, while some are flops. That’s part of playing this team. You know it’s going to happen.
When that does happen, the Celtics can’t afford to give away cheap off-ball fouls. This is especially true on plays away from the ball. That just makes a mess of everything and compounds the already mounting free throw issues.
This is something to remember, should Boston face Philadelphia or the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs. There is a good chance one of those two teams will be standing in front of the Celtics and a Finals trip. You can’t throw it away by giving them free points.
9. Boston continues to steal extra points themselves on second chances. Grant Williams gets the extra look here before Al Horford finds Marcus Smart in the corner:
We have the “Marcus Smart makes Marcus Smart plays” saying we use a lot. We may need a “Derrick White makes Derrick White plays” one too:
10. The Celtics three-game trip to open the post-break run continue on Monday in New York. That’s been a tricky spot for Boston in recent years, and games always seem to come right down to the wire in Madison Square Garden. The Celtics hit that game on a three-game win streak, while the Knicks come in on a five-game victory run of their own.
For Boston, they need to keep winning. Milwaukee isn’t going away. That race seems to be shaping up to be one that will come right down to the end of the regular season. And, as we learned last spring, being at home for a Game 7 is a good place to be. It’s up to the Celtics to make sure it’s played in TD Garden.