Three Key Storylines
- Al Horford comes up big
- Derrick White picks up the slack
- Tough night for Jayson Tatum
It wasn't the prettiest performance, but the Boston Celtics outlasted the Philadelphia 76ers in a shootout Friday night at TD Garden.
The C's tied a season-high with 44 first-quarter points while shooting 70 percent from the floor, including 8-of-11 from 3. While they were on fire offensively, so were the Sixers.
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Playing without stars Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, Philly erupted for 72 first-half points and shot 58.2 percent against the second-ranked defense in the NBA. It took advantage of Boston's turnover woes (11 in first half, 20 for the game) to keep it close for all four quarters.
It was a back-and-forth affair that included 16 lead changes. Ultimately, the Celtics escaped with a hard-fought 125-119 victory over their Eastern Conference rival.
C's star Jayson Tatum (21 points) was ejected after arguing with officials and earning his second technical foul at the end of the third quarter. Derrick White (21 points) and Al Horford (20 points) stepped up in his absence as seven Celtics players scored in double figures.
Sixers guard Patrick Beverley tied his career-high with 26 points in the loss. De'Anthony Melton chipped in 21 points of his own.
Next, the Celtics will visit the Indiana Pacers on Monday night for the knockout stage of the NBA In-Season Tournament. Before we switch focus to the IST, here are our takeaways from Friday's game.
Al Horford comes up big
Horford continues to step up for the C's in Kristaps Porzingis' (calf) absence.
The veteran big man played a crucial role in Friday's win over his former team with key plays on both ends of the floor. His night started with back-to-back 3-pointers and he didn't let his foot off the gas for the rest of the game.
Horford notched 20 points (7-9 FG) to set a season-high for the second consecutive game. He scored 16 points in Tuesday's win over the Chicago Bulls.
As much of an impact Horford made on offense, he was even better defensively. The 37-year-old constantly contested shots and he made his presence felt with two huge blocks on Sixers forward Tobias Harris in the fourth quarter.
Horford immediately followed those blocks with an assist on the other end to Jrue Holiday, who drained a 3-pointer that put the C's up by one. He ended up with six rebounds, three assists, and a steal to go with his 20 points and two blocks in 33 minutes.
Derrick White picks up the slack
Like Horford, White continues to be a stabilizing force when his team needs him most.
The Celtics were noticeably worse when White was off the court on Friday night. The All-Defensive guard was a difference-maker in all facets of the game. He notched a team-high 13 points while shooting 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in the first half and remained a key contributor throughout the final two frames.
White was a team-best +18 while logging 21 points, six rebounds, five assists, and one steal, and a block. With Tatum playing only three quarters and Jaylen Brown (8-20 FG) struggling to find his shot for most of the night, it was White who propelled Boston to victory alongside Horford.
Jayson Tatum has a night to forget
The Celtics held off the Sixers despite playing without their superstar for the entire fourth quarter.
Tatum was ejected at the end of the third quarter for arguing with the officials and earning his second technical foul of the game. You can watch the sequence below:
The ejection topped off a tough night for Tatum. While he dropped 15 points in the first half, he also turned the ball over five times through the first two frames. He finished with seven of the team's season-high 20 turnovers.
Had Tatum taken better care of the basketball and avoided the second tech, he would have finished with a strong stat line. The four-time All-Star recorded 21 points (6-9 FG), seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block before being booted. He'll look to avoid making the same types of mistakes in Monday's In-Season Tournament showdown with Indiana.