3 takeaways as shorthanded Celtics reclaim the top spot in the East


In a game that featured 11 lead changes, the Celtics, without Kristaps Porzingis (knee) and Jaylen Brown (illness), went into Philadelphia and reclaimed the top spot in the Eastern Conference, defeating the 76ers 117-107, just one week after Philly beat them at full strength.

With Porzingis and Brown inactive, Joe Mazzulla slid Sam Hauser and Al Horford into the starting lineup, leading to some early minutes for guys like Dalano Banton, Luke Kornet, and Svi Mykhailiuk. Mazzulla got funky with his first-quarter rotation, and it worked, as Boston’s bench made some big contributions, helping the C’s jump out to a 15-point first-quarter lead. The Celtics bench outscored Philadelphia’s 10-0 in the first quarter.

Mykhailiuk and Banton were especially impressed in the opening frame, as Mykhailiuk led the bench in scoring, with five points on two timely shots, and Banton snagged five rebounds in just 4:19 of action. Banton also nearly had the highlight of the night – dropping Philadelphia’s Patrick Beverley but coming up just short on the floater.

Kornet got his time to shine in the 4th quarter, pouring in seven points in six minutes and coming up with two massive offensive rebounds that he turned into four second-chance points, as the Celtics’ bench provided some solid minutes throughout the night.

Four Celtics finished with double-figures scoring, with Jayson Tatum leading the way with 29 points on 10-of-23 (43.5%) shooting from the field, once again utilizing all three levels.

Al Horford has his best game of the season, registering a season-high 14 points on 5-of-9 (55.6%) shooting from the field and 4-of-8 (50%) from deep. The 37-year-old also had eight rebounds and five blocks, his most in a game since January 2, 2022, against the Magic.

Derrick White also had a monster night, pouring in 27 points on 7-of-12 (58.3%) shooting. Jrue Holiday finished with 18 points, a game-high 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and a steal, as he continues to do it all for the Celtics. Holiday now has five double-doubles, tied with Tatum for the most on the team.

Here are three takeaways from another impressive win by the Celtics as they extend their winning streak to four games.

A nice response after a disastrous second quarter

The Celtics hit the ground running in the first quarter, generating high-percentage looks on offense and playing some suffocating defense. With both sides of the ball clicking, the Celtics closed the final 6:55 of the first quarter on a 24-8 run, building a 15-point lead heading into the second frame.

The tide changed in the second, as Philly took advantage of a stagnant Boston offense, wiping away what once was a 17-point Celtics lead.

The Celtics made things easy for the 76ers, settling for bad shots and turning the ball over six times in the second frame, resulting in nine points for Philly. The Celtics turned the ball over just nine times on the night.

Joel Embiid scored just two of Philadelphia’s 36 points in the second quarter, as the 76ers shot 70% from the field. Boston was outscored 36-20.

After a rough second quarter, the Celtics found some life again in the third. Fueled by Horford, who knocked down three shots from behind the arc in the first five minutes of the third quarter, the Celtics went on a 15-7 run to reclaim the lead, and they never gave it back.

Boston outscored the 76ers 26-17 in the third quarter, building an eight-point lead heading into the fourth. Philly's 17 third-quarter points are tied for the fewest allowed by the Celtics in any quarter this season.

With all the momentum on the side of the home team after an awful second quarter, the Celtics responded in a big way, an encouraging sign for the new-look Celtics.

Playing their best ball down the stretch (again)

Speaking of encouraging signs, the Celtics continued to show growth in a major area on Wednesday night, playing their best basketball down the stretch.

White led the way for the Celtics in the fourth quarter. The 29-year-old finished with 14 fourth-quarter points on 4-of-7 (57.1%) shooting, three assists, and two boards. White scored or assisted on seven of Boston’s 11 made buckets (63.6%).

Tatum also had a big fourth quarter, pouring in 10 points on 3-of-8 (37.5%) shooting and snagging four rebounds. It was Tatum who knocked down the dagger on a feed from White.

Horford had two blocks in the fourth quarter, more than Philly had the entire game (1), and knocked down a clutch three.

The Celtics scored 34 points in the final frame on 11-of-23 (47.8%) shooting, had four blocks, a steal, and outrebounded Philly.

Closing out games has been a chronic in the past for the Celtics, but early on, it’s been a different story for the new-look Celtics.

Winning the non-Tatum minutes

With the C’s shorthanded, winning the non-Tatum minutes was crucial to Boston’s success on Wednesday night. The Celtics entered Wednesday night with a +23.4 net rating with Tatum on the floor and a -15.5 with Tatum on the bench.

The Celtics won the non-Tatum minutes Wednesday night – largely in part of the efforts of Holiday, who was terrific with the bench lineup.

The Celtics outscored the 76ers by eight points with Tatum off the court on Wednesday night, as they have now won the non-Tatum minutes in back-to-back games.

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