PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jayson Tatum buried a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston with 1.3 seconds left, Joel Embiid didn’t get his desperation heave off in time to tie and the Celtics held on for a 110-107 win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
Tatum finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Jaylen Brown scored 26 points and Derrick White added 18 for the Celtics.
Embiid finished with 41 points and 12 rebounds. James Harden scored 21 points and Tobias Harris had 19.
The late-game thriller proved worthy of a showdown between two of the top teams in the East.
Boston, though, proved it’s still the team to beat.
The Sixers dug deep trailing by five with 3 minutes left. With booming “MVP! MVP!” chants filling the arena, Embiid hit two free throws and followed with a jumper that pulled the Sixers within one. Embiid then blocked Brown’s layup and Tyrese Maxey went the other way for a go-ahead driving layup that sent another packed house into a frenzy.
Al Horford, once considered a key cog in the 76ers’ chase for a championship, instead hit the clutch 3-pointer inside Wells Fargo Center that the city craved from him in 2019-20. He put the Celtics ahead by two points and a bucket by Tatum made it 107-103.
Harden and Embiid made four straight free throws that tied the game and put every fan — there was a smattering of green in the stands — on edge.
Tatum, though, calmly hit a 3 to put Boston ahead. Embiid then heaved one from inside the opposing 3-point line and it fell through the basket — just a tick too late.
Horford made five 3s for 15 points.
The 76ers had another packed house and fans were hyped from pregame warmups for a game with a definitive playoff feel. Both teams came out firing — they each hit four 3s and shot at least 50% in the first quarter. The scoring swings were so one-sided for a stretch that the Celtics went on a 20-4 run and only led 39-32.
The Sixers entered this one with something to prove after a miserable effort in a 106-99 loss earlier this month in Boston. The reigning Eastern Conference champion Celtics remain the class of the conference. The Sixers are still out to show under coach Doc Rivers they’re more than a 50-win, second-round exit team. They’re going to need Embiid to lead the way. After a difficult shooting night against Memphis on Thursday, Embiid had a game worthy of the “MVP! MVP!” chants that serenaded him with each trip to the free-throw line.
He bullied his way down the lane for big buckets. Embiid’s three-point play late in the fourth stretched the lead to 11 and he had an assist on De’Anthony Melton’s 3-pointer on the next possession.
Horford made three straight 3s to bring Boston back into the game. Horford’s fourth 3 of the quarter keyed an 18-3 run and helped the Celtics lead 80-78 through three.
Celtics: Hit five 3s and shot 52% in the third quarter.
76ers: C Dewayne Dedmon sat out with left hip tightness. … P.J. Tucker’s 11 rebounds in the first half were a season high and the first time in 12 seasons he had double-digit boards in a half.
Celtics: Play Monday at New York.
76ers: Host Miami on Monday before they open March with a stretch of 12 of 15 road games.
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