BOSTON (AP) — The NBA-leading Boston Celtics scrounged enough out of their bench to keep the Philadelphia 76ers at bay in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
With three of the Celtics’ regular starters out — and Jaylen Brown soon to join them — Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White scored 19 points apiece to lead Boston to a 106-99 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
Brown, who missed the previous game with a non-COVID illness, left the game after colliding with Jayson Tatum under the basket when they were both going for an offensive rebound.
Brown appeared to take Tatum’s elbow in the left side of his head. He went to the floor and was slow to get up; when he did, he went straight to the locker room, rubbing his left eye and temple.
The team announced at the start of the third quarter that he had a facial contusion and would not return. After the game, coach Joe Mazzulla said he had no more information, but Brogdon said Brown appeared to be in pain when he left.
“I called him but he didn’t answer,” Mazzulla said. “But I’ll get that ASAP. I hope he’s OK.”
Tatum had 12 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for Boston, which won for the fourth time in five games to add to the NBA’s best record (39-16). The 76ers (34-19) are second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference, having lost both matchups with the Celtics this season.
“Boston has beaten us twice, and Boston won the East last year. Boston is the best team in the East. I said that before,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s our job to prove that wrong. But we have a lot of time to do that.”
Joel Embiid scored 28 points and James Harden added 26 points and 11 assists for the Sixers, who lost their second game in a row. They had won nine of their previous 11.
Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III and Al Horford all missed the game with injuries. Blake Griffin got the start and hit five 3-pointers for a season-high 15 points, and Grant Williams scored 15 points and added eight rebounds.
In all, the Boston bench outscored Philadelphia’s 31-21, with three other usual second-stringers contributing 49 points from the starting lineup. The Celtics made 19 of 35 from 3-point range.
“I could have made some of those 3s,” Rivers told reporters. “Well, maybe not me. I was a poor shooter. But someone in this room could have made those 3s.”
The Celtics led 98-87 midway through the fourth quarter before Matisse Thybulle and Harden hit back-to-back 3-pointers to key an 8-0 run. But Boston scored on an inbounds pass from White to Luke Kornet with 0.5 seconds to make it 100-95 with about three minutes left.
“I really didn’t think we played with the right spirit the entire game,” Rivers said. “They scored with .5 on the clock. I just thought our defensive discipline was poor. And when you play that way you don’t deserve to win.”
White then hit a 3-pointer the next time down. It was a six-point game with under two minutes when Embiid put up a fadeaway from the foul line that missed everything and went out of bounds. It was first ruled Celtics ball, the referees overruled themselves and awarded it to the Sixers, then the Celtics challenged; the replay showed Grant Williams got a piece of Embiid’s hand, not the ball.
Boston didn’t capitalize on that possession but, after Embiid missed a 3, Tatum drove for a floater that made it 105-97 with 37 seconds left.
The Celtics were without Al Horford (swollen right knee), Robert Williams III (sprained left ankle) and Marcus Smart (sprained right ankle). The No. 9 Duke women’s basketball team attended the game, a night before they are scheduled to play Boston College. Duke coach Kara Lawson spent 2020 as a Celtics assistant. … Griffin’s season-highs had been three 3-pointers made and 13 points. ... Embiid picked up a technical foul in the second quarter.