It was a Chrismas Day classic in Boston with the Celtics finishing strong to claim a 121-114 win in overtime, thanks to Kyrie Irving's heroics
Today marked just the second OT game on Christmas Day since 2004, with the last a Miami Heat win over the Pelicans in 2015. Prior to that, it was Shaquille O'Neal's Heat beating Kobe Bryant's Lakers in 2004.
With another classic in the books today, here are four takeaways from the game:
Kyrie Irving: Grand opening, grand closing
Christmas Kyrie is different. We've seen him deliver on Christmas Day in years past, but today the Celtics point guard took it to another level from start to finish.
The 76ers started the game well early in the first quarter, but Kyrie Irving refused to let them build any momentum, turning it on with 16 points in the period. He kept the heat on in the second, finishing the first half with 23 of their 57 first half points.
Kyrie Irving sparks the @celtics in Q1 with 16 PTS! #CUsRise #NBAXmas pic.twitter.com/xsJ4zhfycX- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) December 25, 2018
He scored 11 more in the third and when the Celtics needed a hero in the fourth, he answered the call, sending the game into overtime with this clutch bucket, with Jimmy Butler draped all over him!
Kyrie Irving = CLUTCH!- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) December 26, 2018
We're going to overtime on #NBAXmas #CUsRise pic.twitter.com/VSnohHwWaR
And just when you thought he was finished, he buried back-to-back three-pointers in overtime, like he was playing pop-a-shot, sending the TD Garden into hysterics.
Irving finished the game with 40 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, his second 40-point game of the season and the highest scoring Celtic on Christmas Day since Tommy Heinsohn' 45 points in 1961.
Turnovers hamper 76ers once again
It's been a familiar story for the Philadelphia 76ers, especially against the Boston Celtics, as they again struggled to execute down the stretch, but they didn't do themselves any favours with some sloppy possessions.
Philly turned the ball over 19 times, which turned into 22 points for the Celtics, with their Big 3 of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler combining for 14.
Boston turned the ball over just nine times.
76ers lack of depth proves costly
Philly's starters accounted for 101 of their 114 points tonight, but for coach Brett Brown that level of reliance is unsustainable long term.
After getting ZERO points from the bench in the first half, they did get a spark from the second unit in the third quarter, with TJ McConnell, Landry Shamet and Mike Muscala teaming up to kick-start a 15-2 run to give Philly an unlikely 83-81 lead, but outside of that, they had to rely on their Big 3 on offence, which played right into the Celtics' hands.
JJ Redick (17 points) and Wilson Chandler (15 points) were productive, but when the overtime period hit, the 76ers offence became predictable as they struggled to create open looks, with Boston's defence ready at every turn.
Credit the Celtics for their defensive effort, but Philly's lack of options certainly aided their efforts.
Horford's defence proves crucial for Boston
On paper, Joel Embiid filled it up with 34 points and 16 rebounds, but Al Horford made him sweat when he was guarding him, draping himself over the big man all game, especially down the stretch, denying him the ball and forcing the 76ers away from the one player that had the hot hand.
Joel Embiid had 28 points through 3 quarters. Al Horford checked back in at 10:40 of 4th and guarded him most of the rest of the way (both had short rests in 4th)- Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) December 26, 2018
Embiid in 4th + OT: 1-of-4, 4 points.
In the final 3:33 of the game, Boston went on a 13-1 run, as the 76ers missed their final six field goal attempts, with Embiid unable to get a shot off at all.
Brad Stevens on playing Horford past his 25-min restriction: "I asked the training staff if he could play any extra or not ... They said he was fine. They said he was good to go. They said he looked good, felt good."- Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) December 26, 2018
Horford came into the game on a minutes restriction with Brad Stevens planning on playing him just 25 minutes, but the continued to match him up with Embiid to slow the 76ers down which ultimately made the difference.