By Patrick Whalen
Merry Christmas Celtic fans and what better gift to get than a Christmas day game against our rivals from Philly. Heading into the game the Celtics were coming off a win on Sunday against the Hornets and were looking to finsih off their 2018 home campaign with a win against the Sixers. The Celtics injury report featured just one named for the Christmas day matchup as Aron Baynes is in his first full week of nursing his broken left hand. The big story line going into this matchup of the two rivals was the edition of Jimmy Butler as this was the first matchup between the two since the Sixers acquired Butler. The Celtics were also rocking their new Earned Edition jerseys for the Christmas day matchup.
The Celtics offense was powered by none other than Kyrie Irving who had himself a day with 40 points on 17-33 shooting, including5-10 from three, and 10 rebounds (Basketball-Reference.com). Kyrie had 16 of his 40 in the first quarter helping the Celtics jump out to a 32-25 lead at the end of the first quarter (NBC Sports Boston).
The strong first quarter helped the Celtics maintain a 6 point lead at the half. The Celtics also got strong offensive performaces from Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris. Tatum had 23 points on 7-18 shooting and 10 rebounds and two big blocks including this one where J.J. Redick had no business trying to shoot over three Celtics.
Morris also had 23 points on 8-13 shooting, including 3-5 from downtown, and 6 rebounds. Despite holding a 6 point halftime lead and controling the game during most of the first half the Celtics were outplayed in the third quarter as the Sixers outs scored the Celts 38-29 to take a 3 point lead heading into the forth quarter. The Celtics stepped up in the fourth holding the Sixers to just 19 points and thanks to a clutch fadeaway shot from Kyrie the Celtics were able to force overtime (Basketball-Reference.com).
In overtime it was all Celtics as they out scored the Sixers by 7 to win by a final score of 114-121. The Sixers scored the first 5 points in OT but then the Celtics would finish the game on a 13-1 run. Tatum got the run started with a dunk of his own and the an ally oop to Gordon Hayward for a layup. Kyrie then took over with back to back threes to give the Celtics a 4 point lead.
Tatum and Hayward would then ice the game with a combined 3 of 4 from the foul line. What better way to finish off Christmas day than with a Celtics win.
Despite the loss the Sixers still had many good performaces offensivley. Joel Embiid had 34 points on 10-17 shooting and 16 rebounds. Jimmy Butler struggled shooting going 9-21 from the floor but still managed 24 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 4 assist, and 3 steals. Ben Simmons had 11 points on 4-9 shooting with 14 rebounds and 8 assits. He struggled shooting mostly because he doesn’t know how to shoot from outside 8 feet. Fellow starters J.J. Redick and Wilson Chandler were each in double figures with 17 and 15 points respectively (Basketball-Reference.com). But it wasn’t enough as Kyrie willed the Celtics to their 20th victory of the season. Kyrie’s performance put him on an exclusive list of Celtic ledgends as he now has the second highest points scored by a Celtic on Christmas day (NBC Sports Boston).
The Celtics are now 20-13 on the season and with the loss the Sixers fall to 22-13 on the season. Sadly this was the last Celtic home game until 2019, but we still have 3 more Celtics games before 2019. The boys in green will be heading out west for their final 3 games of 2018. They will first start with Houston on Thursday the 27th and then they’ll head to Memphis on Satuday the 29th and finish off 2018 with a game in San Antonio on New Years Eve. The Celtics now sit 4.5 games back of first place in the east, but the advantage for the Celtics is they have played the fewest games out of the top 5 teams with the Bucks at 33 games. Meanwhile Toronto has played 36, Indiana 35 and Philly 35 games. This gives the Celtics a couple of games in hand to make up ground on the east. For the next three games the Celtics could and should be able to win all three games. Currently only San Antonio and Houston are in the western playoff picture at the 8 seed and 7 seed. The Rockets and Spurs are each just 3 games over .500 while the Grizzlies are currently outside the top 8 and are just 2 games over .500. The Celtics will also have a big advantage against the Rockets as Chris Paul will be out with a hamstring injury and James Harden will be potentially playing a bruised calf. Lets see if the Celtics can finish off 2018 with a winning streak and carry the momentum into 2019.