The Boston Celtics led by 19 in the first half in Utah. They led by four with 1:19 remaining. But the Celtics have played lately like a team that is comfortable — plus they miss Robert Williams III — and that led to another loss, this time 119-118 to the Jazz on the road.
This one came dramatically when Grant Williams — who was hot and hit seven 3-pointers in the game — broke off a play designed to be a dribble hand-off for Jayson Tatum and went to the rim, only to get rejected by rookie Walker Kessler.
Walker Kessler with the CLUTCH block to seal the win for the Jazz over the Celtics 🚨pic.twitter.com/2wXxS5xvMM
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) March 19, 2023
Despite the loss, the Celtics clinched a playoff spot with the Heat’s loss to the Bulls. Utah’s Lauri Markkanen was hot and led all scorers with 28.
Earlier in the day, the 76ers had little trouble with the Pacers and picked up their eighth-straight win while Joel Embiid scored 31 points — his ninth straight game with 30+ points as he makes an MVP push.
Joel Embiid is the first player in Sixers history to drop 30+ points in 9 straight games.
Tonight: 31 PTS, 7 REB, 7 AST 🔥
Sixers have won 8 straight. pic.twitter.com/B5aXEKQcUO
— NBA (@NBA) March 19, 2023
The 76ers’ win and the Celtics’ loss moves Philadelphia percentage points ahead of Boston into the No. 2 seed in the East.
The Celtics and 76ers are destined to finish as the two and three seeds in the East, setting up a second-round clash (barring any first-round upsets). The seeding matters mostly for home court in that series and that could make a difference in what will be a physical, intense match-up that likely goes at least six games.
Meanwhile, the Bucks sit as the top seed with a two-game cushion and would love to watch the Celtics and 76ers beat each other up in the second round before having to face either.