Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The Celtics exploded in the third, and the Sixers just didn’t seem to have an answer. Embiid finished the third quarter with 11 points, and Horford picked up his fourth foul early in the period. The Celtics, meanwhile, appeared to be having a lot of fun. Brown dusted Matisse Thybulle and Al Horford with a pair of nasty dribble moves, and Boston’s lead ballooned back to a very comfortable margin.
The Celtics kept a comfortable advantage over a Sixers team that simply didn’t have the juice for a real comeback.
Philadelphia could’ve used Josh Richardson last night; he torched the Celtics for 29 in their last meeting, but he’s got a bad hamstring. The Celtics were without Kemba Walker, whose surprise sore knee on the injury report has turned into sitting at least two games.
Anyway, Jayson Tatum and, especially, Jaylen Brown made sure none of that mattered.
Tatum scored 25 points with 4 assists, getting to the free throw line often (8-of-10), drilling some dagger threes (3-of-6), and delivering the play of the game (see Page 2).
Brown managed to surpass that performance, with 32 points, 9 rebounds and a bunch of highlight reel plays, including:
Since being left out of the All-Star game, JB has averaged 25 points and 8 boards. It’s natural to think he’s sending a message, but when asked, he said no.
He could not have given a better answer.
On Page 2: A rude welcome back
Having been unable to play in Philadelphia’s first visit to TD Garden, Saturday was his first time here in uniform since leaving. But the crowd gave him a warm reception at the December 12 game.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, to be honest,” he said. “But I was happy with that. A lot of respect, mutual respect — from the fans and also my respect to them.”
No doubt, Boston was more than just a temporary place of employment for Horford and family.
“A lot happened here in my three years, on the court and off the court,” he said. “Two of my little girls were born here, and, you know, on the way over I was looking at Mass. General, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I was there.’ Just a lot of good memories. All I have is positive memories here of my time.”
It was not a happy “homecoming” for Al Horford on Saturday night. His first time on the parquet in a Sixers uniform was a disaster.
Horford made just 4-of-11 shots overall and 1-of-6 three-pointers. He didn’t get to the free throw line. He finished with 9 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
Al also got dunked on loudly by both Jays. The first jam, by Jayson, reverberated around the NBA and the internet and was probably felt by Al deep in his soul.
Jaylen’s was not as dramatic because Al made a business decision and stepped back. Still, the big man was helpless.
Then he got one-upped and trash-talked (with a smile) by Marcus Smart.
“Earlier on the half, he scored on me,” Smart said. “I didn’t see it or know, but everyone was telling me he gave me the little baby pose. I asked him when he was on the bench, ‘Did you call me little?’ He started laughing and I told him ‘I’m going to remember that.’”
He wasn’t lying.
Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Celtics up 13, Smart caught the ball against the Sixers zone defense. Horford, playing the center of the 2-3 zone, came over to pick Smart up. Smart faked, dribbled, and launched a floater high enough to scrape the banners before it splashed through.
And here is that play.
To top it off, the Sixers suffered a beatdown that kept them in the 6th seed in the Eastern standings. They’re now 3 games behind the Celts, who are 3rd. If Horford’s crew doesn’t improve their ranking, they’ll be without any home court advantage in the playoffs – which is a problem when your road record is 9-17.
Philly fans will say they won the season series with Boston, 3-1, and that’s true. Also true: the all-time rivalry now stands at 261-190 in the Celtics’ favor.
And, finally… Tidbits
Some oddities and notables from last night.
- Philly’s only lead of the game was 2-0 on Embiid’s first shot. They committed 7 turnovers in the first quarter, fell behind by double digits, and never got close again.
- Embiid missed every shot after that and finished 1-of-11. Daniel Theis (with a lot of team defensive help) kept him in check.
- The previously hot Gordon Hayward also shot 1-of-11.
- Jaylen was 12-of-13 on 2-point shots and 1-of-10 on threes.
- There were a lot of free throws: Philly 26-of-32, Boston 32-of-41,
- Each team scored more than 30 FGs but registered only 15 assists.
- Brad Wanamaker (15 points, 3 assists, 2 steals) got a technical for briefly staring at Embiid after this dunk (insert eye roll emoji).
- Wanamaker got a second dunk in garbage time. They were the first jams in his two-year NBA career.
- Boston is 11-0 this season when The Jays both score at least 20.
- We had Tacko Time (he scored 2 points).
- What the hell, let’s see that Tatum dunk one more time.
The Rest of the Links:
NBC Sports Boston: Injury bug has made it hard to tell just how good Celtics can be | Instant Overreactions: Have the Celtics finally figured out the 76ers? | Ex-teammate Al Horford the latest addition to Jayson Tatum’s wall of posterized All-Stars
Boston Sports Journal: BSJ Game Report: Celtics 116, 76ers 95 – Aggressive C’s earn first win of year vs. Philly