Celtics’ late comeback bid falls short against 76ers in second consecutive loss

 

 

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, left, stares at Boston Celtics’ Kristaps Porzingis after a dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Unbelievably, the Celtics had a chance. Looking lethargic for nearly 48 minutes, and trailing by as many as 14, they had a look to tie it. A really good look. Derrick White found Kristaps Porzingis deep beyond the 3-point line. The big man pump faked. Then he stepped into a wide-open 3-pointer.

The Celtics were down 104-90 with two minutes to go before engineering a furious comeback. They reeled off a 10-0 run in less than a minute and then trailed by three on that final play. But it wasn’t enough. Too many turnovers. Too many bad shots. Too much bad defense. The Celtics were too out of sorts. It took too long for them to wake up and they were unable to overcome their struggles in a frustrating 106-103 loss to the 76ers in Philadelphia.

After looking sharp and winning in different ways to start 5-0, the Celtics have hit their first road bump of the season and their first test of adversity. They were unable to respond after the first loss of the season to the Timberwolves on Monday, and they went down in both in similar fashion as they ran into strong defenses and couldn’t get through them.

Porzingis scored 29 points, but Jaylen Brown had only 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting with four turnovers. Jayson Tatum finished with just 16 points. Reigning MVP Joel Embiid was once again hard to stop with 27 points, Tyrese Maxey had 25 and the new-look 76ers – now without James Harden – looked renewed and comfortable in their first rematch since last spring’s Eastern Conference semifinals. They had more energy and made more plays than the Celtics, and that was ultimately the difference.

Derrick White returned after missing two games due to the birth of his second child Daxton, and it was clear right away why his presence was missed. White had an early offensive putback and contributed seven points, four rebounds and three assists in the first quarter as Boston took an early lead.

Despite a size difference, Jrue Holiday has served as a primary defender to opposing bigs during some stretches early this season. He matched up some against New York’s Julius Randle in the opener, and against Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns on Monday. The theme continued Wednesday against Embiid, and the results were good for the Celtics. With Holiday defending him and his teammates providing loose help, the Celtics forced Embiid into two turnovers as they got into transition and went on an early 13-2 run.

The Celtics held the 76ers to just 22 points in the first quarter, and while their defense was solid, the 76ers were still getting good looks that just weren’t going down. But they finally started hitting in a forgettable second quarter for the Celtics, who gave up 39 points in the period as the Sixers got into a comfortable groove.

The Celtics got stagnant offensively and it contributed to a 2-for-12 stretch that included rushed 3-pointers and less ball movement. That helped Tyrese Maxey and the Sixers get out and run as they went on a 22-8 run to take control as the Celtics simply couldn’t manufacture stops. Kristaps Porzingis got into a rhythm in the post late in the second en route to 16 first-half points, but Maxey’s last-second shot gave Philly a seven-point lead at the break.

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