“Offensively, it doesn’t feel like he’s got 32 at the end of the night,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He just plays the game within himself. He did a lot of good things tonight.”
Jaylen Brown scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter.
“Jaylen Brown in the last period was exceptional,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “It’s true that Jayson Tatum to start was excellent. You have to give them credit for how good they are at creating their own shot. I hope that we can do a better job of defending them in some of the schemes that we’re trying to execute.”
Kemba Walker added 19 points for the Celtics.
Joel Embiid had 26 points and 16 rebounds and Josh Richardson and Alec Burks each added 18 points for the 76ers.
Embiid took the loss hard.
“I’ve got to do more,” he said. “Whatever the stats are, I’ve got to do more. I’ve got one job to do — carry us. I’m going to need my teammates to help me.”
Philadelphia nearly pulled off the win without All-Star guard Ben Simmons, who is out indefinitely after left knee surgery.
Tatum scored 15 points in the second quarter to give the Celtics a 55-49 lead at halftime.
The 76ers went on a 15-0 run late in the third quarter to take an 81-75 lead, and Philadelphia led 85-81 heading into the fourth.
The Celtics went on a 9-0 run that included seven points by Brown to take a 92-86 lead, and Boston pushed the lead to 10 before the 76ers made a final push. Philadelphia cut Boston’s lead to 103-100 on a 3-pointer by Richardson with 59 seconds remaining, but the Celtics made 6 of 6 free throws in the final minute.
“Philly, they’re not going to go away,” Tatum said. “They’re a tough team. It’s the playoffs. You’ve got to come together as a team. You’ve got to play hard. You ain’t going to be perfect. That’s what we did. We came together and stuck it out.”
76ers: Embiid scored 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the first quarter. … Tobias Harris had seven assists in the first half and finished with eight. … Horford was called for a Flagrant 1 in the fourth quarter for a foul against Brown. Horford corralled Brown on a drive to the hoop. … Shot 26 percent in the fourth quarter.
Celtics: Walker scored 11 points in the fourth quarter. … F Gordon Hayward limped off the court with about three minutes remaining after his foot came down on teammate Daniel Theis’ left foot. Stevens said it was a sprained ankle.
Stevens on Hayward’s injury: “Don’t know the severity. He’s clearly in pain. It looked like it had some swelling already. That’s my medical review.”
The Celtics scored 21 points off Philadelphia’s 18 turnovers.
“We know what we’ve got to fix — too many turnovers, starting with me,” Embiid said. “It’s all on me. I’ve got to take care of the ball. They had too many offensive rebounds, too many points off turnovers.”