New Orleans played without Derrick Favors because a right hamstring strain, Jrue Holiday sat his fourth straight game with a left elbow contusion, Kenrich Williams missed his third consecutive game with back soreness and J.J. Redick sat with a left hamstring strain.
The Celtics exploited the absences early. Tatum was active from a variety of spots on the floor, connecting on eight of his first nine shots. He scored 22 points in the the first half to help the Celtics build as much as a 22-point lead.
Even with Joel Embiid out injured, Sixers rally in fourth to knock off Celtics
PHILADELPHIA — Brett Brown gathered his team in the locker room to ring the postgame victory bell when the 76ers coach noticed a familiar face on general manager Elton Brand’s phone. There was Joel Embiid on FaceTime, calling in from New York where he’s set to have surgery Friday to repair a torn ligament. Embiid had to like the view — a Sixers team that gutted out a win hours after learning the All-Star center was out indefinitely.
“We’re going to miss Joel for however long it is,” guard Ben Simmons said, “but tonight was a good start.”
Josh Richardson scored 29 points, Simmons had 19 and Philadelphia won without Embiid, beating the Boston Celtics 109-98 on Thursday night.
Embiid will have surgery for a torn ligament in a finger in his left hand and will be evaluated in one to two weeks. Embiid, averaging 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds in 31 games this season, tore the radial collateral ligament in the ring finger Monday night in a victory over Oklahoma City.
“I’m putting a blow torch, a bullet, many bullets into what we used to do,” Brown said. “Really. It doesn’t fit. So it’s on me to make it fit. We don’t have Joel Embiid. So when I say, ‘blow torch and bullet,’ I mean it.”
Mike Scott slid into the starting rotation, along with Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Richardson and Simmons. Simmons, an All-Star point guard, played center at times and drew a charge on Enes Kanter with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
“I’ve always been curious of what that could look like,” Brown said. “I thought he was good. I don’t know what the numbers bear out but it’s something we tried. I have wanted to try Ben at five, we did, and I suspect we’ll see it again.”
With Embiid out indefinitely, even the deep reserves are going to have to contribute to keep them afloat until he returns. That included Furkan Korkmaz, who buried a 3 late in the fourth that stretched the Sixers’ lead to 91-87. Horford, who left Boston in the offseason to sign a four-year deal with Philadelphia, converted a three-point play for a seven-point lead. The Celtics pulled within two, but the Sixers used a 9-0 run to put the game away and improve to 18-2 at home.
“It’s two big sports cities that really get behind their teams, so you appreciate that,” Richardson said. “I feel like everybody’s almost ready to fight about that game when it comes up.”
The Celtics had their own injury scare when Kemba Walker, ejected for the first time in his nine-year NBA career a night earlier, sprained his left thumb. Walker ran into Scott and instantly clutched his hand late in the second quarter. Walker, who scored 26 points on 10-for-20 shooting, tried to shake it off but left for the locker room shortly before the Celtics took a 55-48 lead into halftime.
Walker, wearing a wrap in the locker room, said he jammed his thumb and didn’t think he would need additional tests.
“When he first went down, we were worried about ligaments,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Right now, in a lot of ways, it feels like we dodged a bullet.”
Walker looked fine when he returned to the lineup. Jayson Tatum and Walker hit back-to-back 3s to tie the game at 69-all in the third and wipe out a hole caused by the Sixers’ 11-0 run to start the half.
“We just have to close out games better,” Walker said. “You can’t win ’em all, obviously. But we’ve got to be better.”
Celtics get ‘perfect present’ by beating Raptors in Toronto on Christmas
Jaylen Brown spent Christmases growing up visiting family in Michigan, watching NBA games, shoveling away snow and mimicking the best moves from players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James that day.
Today, kids might head outside and imitate Brown.
Brown scored 30 points to lead the Celtics to a 118-102 win over the Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday. Boston snapped the Raptors’ 34-game home winning streak against Atlantic Division teams – the longest such intra-division streak in NBA history. The Celtics had lost eight straight in Toronto.
“To get a win here on Christmas is like the perfect present,” said Brown, who shot 5-of-6 on 2-pointers and 5-of-7 on 3-pointers.
Boston’s strong play up front — even after Al Horford bolted last summer — has been one of the biggest surprises of the Celtics’ season and a key reason they are 17-7.
However, Boston is going to be without the “Time Lord” Robert Williams for a few weeks, the team announced on Monday.
#NEBHInjuryReport Following further testing, Celtics center Robert Williams has been diagnosed with a bone edema in his left hip and will be required to limit his basketball activities while it heals. His status will be reassessed in approximately three weeks.
Williams has a buildup of fluid around his hip bones (an edema), something usually caused by things such as a stress fracture in the bone or arthritis. The cure is rest.
Williams had already missed the last three Celtics’ games due to injury. He’s been a strong shot blocker and defensive player off the bench who is averaging 3.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14.2 minutes per game.
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Joel Embiid is having fun again, which was bad news for Boston. This is how special a player Joel Embiid is: After dropping 22 and 10 on Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets on Tuesday night in a Sixers win, Shaq and Charles Barkley (on TNT’s Inside the NBA) ripped Embiid for not being dominant enough.
This is how special a player Joel Embiid was Thursday night: Boston’s Enes Kanter had probably his best game as a Celtics’ big man, and he couldn’t even slow Embiid, who had 38 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists. Embiid was the best player on the floor and was having fun in a 115-109 Philadelphia win on the road.
Shaq and Barkley are right to a degree, and Embiid even admitted as much after the game — he can be more dominant than he has shown this season. “Maybe. I do think they are right. I do need to be more aggressive. Look to impose myself. Look to dominate,” Embiid said, via Noah Levine at NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think the whole season I haven’t done that and you can see the ways it’s affecting my efficiency and my stats. I guess I need to go back to having fun and just dominate. I get what they are saying. I think they are right and I gotta make a change.”
Of course, Shaq won his rings when he didn’t have to be that dominant every night because he had someone else who could step up and take over (Kobe, Dwyane Wade). Nobody is sure who that would be on the Sixers. Tobias Harris stepped up with 23 points in this game, but Ben Simmons just has not been the guy the Sixers need. He finished the night with 7 points on 2-of-6 shooting. Josh Richardson seems to have more pick-and-roll chemistry with Embiid than Simmons. Still, Simmons makes a few plays every game that shows what he can be.
Philly also won this game because their defense was impressive in the second half. Their length bothered Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who shot a combined 8-of-27.
When the Sixers defend like they did in the second half, and when Embiid is dominant like he was, Philadelphia looks like the second-best team in the East and a threat to Milwaukee. We just haven’t seen it consistently this season.
Boston has now lost back-to-back games to good East teams — Indiana and Philadelphia — and while it’s just December and far too early to panic, it also shows why Boston may want to be active around the trade deadline if they can find a good deal (but stop with the Kevin Love talk, that’s not happening).
2) Former NBA Commissioner David Stern suffers brain hemorrhage, has to undergo emergency surgery. David Stern collapsed at a Manhattan restaurant on Thursday and was raced to a hospital where he underwent emergency surgery for a brain hemorrhage. That means bleeding in or around the brain, and that is as bad and life-threatening as it sounds.
The NBA released this statement.
“NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage earlier today for which he underwent emergency surgery. Our thoughts and prayers are with David and his family.”
The reaction around the NBA was immediate.
Mark Cuban on David Stern’s sudden medical problem: “It’s heartbreaking. He’s incredible. There aren’t enough superlatives. He was incredible to me, even when he was yelling at me.” More to come on https://t.co/odbMuH40Dx
Stern, 77, took over as NBA commissioner back when Finals games were shown on tape delay after midnight on major networks. Stern came along at the right time — first the Magic/Bird era and rivalry, then Michael Jordan — but he understood what an opportunity this was for the league and changed how it marketed itself, it became a league of stars. That remains to this day. He grew the NBA into one of the most dominant sports leagues on the planet.
Our thoughts are with him and his family.
3) Luka Doncic muy impresionante in Mexico City. There were “M-V-P! M-V-P!” chants in the Arena Ciudad de Mexico Thursday night — Mexico City loves Luka Doncic.
Doesn’t everyone right now?
Doncic did everything right Thursday, from addressing the crowd pregame in fluent Spanish (he played for Real Madrid in Spain before coming to the NBA) to dropping a 41-point triple-double on the Pistons to get the Mavericks another win, 122-111. Doncic finished the night with 41 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists.