As the NBA’s regular season wound down, the teams at the lower end of the eight that would qualify in the Eastern Conference seemed to be jockeying to play the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics had too many injuries, too many busted-up bodies, to advance very far. They were the easy target.
The team that was considered the tough out? The Philadelphia 76ers.
The Celtics, having outlasted the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games, beat the 76ers 117-101 on Monday night in Boston. Maybe they don’t have all the players (Jaylen Brown missed the game with a hamstring injury) they want, but they seem to have enough of the ones they need.
Terry Rozier scored 29 points, Jayson Tatum scored 28 and Al Horford contributed 26 (hitting 10 of 12 shots).
That performance marked the first time three Celtics players scored 25 or more points in a non-overtime postseason game since 1987, when Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish did it, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The Sixers hadn’t played since last Tuesday, when they finished off the Miami Heat in five games. Rather than rested and ready, they were rusty. They shot 5 of 26 from the 3-point line and Ben Simmons turned the ball over seven times.
“We weren’t ready tonight,” said 76ers center Joel Embiid. “Thursday (Game 2) we’ve got to do a better job.”
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