On one hand, Christmas was the same old, tired, exasperating tale for the Sixers.
They lost in Boston, 121-114 in overtime (see observations). They let the opposition take 16 more field goals. An opposing guard, Kyrie Irving, torched them for 40 points. The bench didn’t score in the first half. Ben Simmons, despite making the longest shot of his career, was well contained by Boston’s defense. The Celtics executed better down the stretch.
On the other hand, Tuesday’s loss didn’t just feel like a continuation of this spring’s playoff defeat to Boston, and it wasn’t a carbon copy of the Sixers’ deflating loss on opening night.
“I leave feeling like we’re not that far,” head coach Brett Brown told reporters in Boston. “We always learn a lot when you’re playing somebody like the Celtics on their home court, with the team that they have. I look forward to watching us evolve; we will learn from this. We leave disappointed, but I think there’s lots for me that you’re going to point to and say, ‘that’s a hell of a job.’ We lost to a team that was very tough when it mattered most, that last two and a half minutes of overtime.”
For Brown, and for Joel Embiid, the end of regulation and the end of overtime hurt most.
In overtime, the Sixers scored the first five points before the Celtics went on a 10-1 run, ignited by two three-pointers from Irving.
But the game almost never got to that point. The Sixers held a 108-106 lead after Wilson Chandler’s three-pointer with 36 seconds remaining. Then Irving got a fadeaway jumper from the right elbow over Jimmy Butler to bounce in softly off the front rim, and JJ Redick missed a good look from the right wing as time expired in regulation.