The Sixers were without Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Nicolas Batum as they faced the Celtics for the third time this season.
The Philadelphia 76ers (12-7) faced the Boston Celtics (15-4) with Joel Embiid missing his second straight game due to illness and Tyrese Maxey also out. The undermanned Sixers played very hard down to the very end but lost by a score of 125-119.
Let’s break down a stellar effort from the Hospital Sixers.
Sixers player notes:
Patrick Beverley: 26 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 10-15 FG shooting
Talk about some excellent material for a podcast.
Beverley tied his career-high in points and again looked pretty solid generating advantages off the dribble. It took him two quarters to notch a season-high in points for a game as he scored with incredible efficiency. He didn’t let his increased workload on offense stop him from hustling for rebounds and laying his body on the line on defense. PatBev has really started to turn a corner after a not-so-inspiring start to the season.
Robert Covington: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 steals, FG shooting
A season-high 18 points for Covington comprised heavily of free throws but also featured, of course, some treys. His hands on defense have always been great but they’re working overtime in his second stint with the Sixers, as he came away with a handful of steals.
Celtics player notes:
Jayson Tatum: 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 6-9 FG shooting
No one on the Sixers could stand in Tatum’s way this game…except for himself. He committed five turnovers in the first half, which diminished his impact as he scored efficiently and drew shooting fouls. Getting tossed from the game right before the fourth quarter ended what was a rocky yet effective outing.
Jayen Brown: 20 points, 4 rebounds, 0 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks, 8-20 FG shooting
Brown had free range to go for steals and came away with a few early in the game. Without those, his cold shooting would have been even worse. The Celtics were in this game despite the way Brown played for much of the game, not because of it.
The Sixers were without Embiid, who was listed as questionable coming into today but was ruled out over an hour before tip-off, along with Maxey and Nicolas Batum, who were late scratches despite Nick Nurse sounding optimistic that they could play. Paul Reed got the start with Marcus Morris Sr. at the four while Beverley stepped into the starting five as Maxey missed his first game of the season. Al Horford started for Boston in Kristaps Porzingis’ place.
The Sixers got the game started by gifting Brown a pick-six — not ideal. Tobias Harris guarded Tatum while Brown guarded him. Reed hit a straightaway three and scored an and-one on Horford, working his way down into the paint and scoring on a sweeping left-handed layup. Philly brought fight from the get-go in this one, which it did not last time out.
Furkan Korkmaz was the Sixers’ first sub of the night, taking out Beverley less than five minutes in. Brown again jumped a passing lane and scored, which preceded Tatum drawing a second shooting foul on Reed. For as much spunk as the Hospital Sixers had, they looked totally outclassed on defense. While they did generate four turnovers in five possessions with poke-away steals, Philly got called for foul after foul after foul.
Nurse was called for a technical foul at the same time Robert Covington drew a shooting foul. RoCo knocked the ball away from Celtics players numerous times and scored eight points in his first stint of the game. The Sixers’ porous perimeter defense opened up numerous Boston drive-and-kicks that led to 44 points in the opening quarter on 8-11 shooting from deep. The Sixers making four of their eight tries from deep helped them score 36 in the opening period.
The Sixers eventually took the lead with some buckets on the fast breaks, which was the smart way to go about scoring when you’re without roughly 95 percent of your team’s shot creation. Their possessions in the halfcourt weren’t as clunky as one would think given the circumstances but they were staying afloat thanks to some hot shooting.
Here’s a lineup the Sixers actually ran: Korkmaz-Covington-Martin-Harris-Reed. Desperate times call for funky measures. The lineup only played a few minutes and was eventually replaced by a Morris-at-center lineup with the starting guards.
The Celtics came back behind strong plays from Derrick White but a corner three from Morris gave the Sixers a 72-69 lead at the break. Boston has now joined the Washington Wizards as the second team this season to surrender a 70-point first half to Philly.
Beverley creating shots — good ones — off the dribble was a bit shocking to see. Through much of this season, he looked as though he wasn’t privy to probing through the defense and generating rim pressure. But with the Sixers needing some offensive juice with Embiid out, he has done just that, resorting to his floater and push shots in the paint.
The Celtics, who leave this game draped in the stench of embarrassment, were at least able to get more shots at the rim to go with Reed conceding some space due to foul trouble. They eventually built another lead by clamping down on defense, forcing Philly into more halfcourt possessions that ended with tough shots in one-on-ones.
Mo Bamba drained a pair of threes to tie the game back up, both of which came on assists from PatBev. After looking rough to start his Sixers tenure, he gave them some huge minutes throughout this game. Philly’s offense grinded to a half but Brown’s bricks didn’t let the Sixers go down by much.
And then things got even more interesting when Tatum got ejected in the final seconds of the third quarter. He was assessed his second technical of the game (after getting one in the first quarter) after elbowing Covington in the face after getting trapped. It wasn’t an intentional act but the referees deemed it excessive, assessing a Flagrant 1 after tossing him as he chirped at them.
The Sixers took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter and the Celtics turned to Payton Pritchard for a spark. He obliged, as did Jrue Holiday, who had a poor scoring night but made big plays in crunch time. Horford stuffed Harris twice in a row and assisted Holiday for three to try to spark a run for Boston.
Reed scored a fall-away jumper over Horford as De’Anthony Melton, who had 21 points, fouled out with just over five minutes left to play. The Celtics maintained a narrow lead down the stretch as Harris committed some brutal blunders, including a travel, a shooting foul on Pritchard and a missed breakaway layup (though there was some contact that could have earned him a foul). Nurse did a poor job getting the ball to the one guy who was truly cooking with the ball in his hands, Beverley, which took away time on the shot clock without any benefit.
Beverley had the ball more after a timeout and it allowed him to hit a game-tying triple off the dribble with three minutes left. An exchange of buckets left the Sixers down three in the final 90 seconds. Holiday went to the free-throw line after a foul from Beverley and pushed the lead up to five.
Philly was unable to pull out the win but this game was one of the most entertaining of the year.