Boston trio echo 1987 feat

BOSTON • Gordon Hayward has been out since the first game of the National Basketball Association (NBA) regular season. Kyrie Irving's knee surgery early last month ended his post-season chances.

And on Monday night, a strained hamstring meant Jaylen Brown, who averaged 20.5 points in the first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, could play no part in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Step forward another "Big Three". Nowhere was the Boston Celtics' "next man up" mentality more evident than at TD Garden after the trio of Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford combined for 83 points as the hosts beat the Philadelphia 76ers 117-101.

Rozier scored a career play-off-high 29 points while Tatum had a personal best 28 points, and Horford tied his career play-off scoring mark with 26 points as the NBA's No. 1 defensive team took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, it was the first time that three Celtics had scored 25 or more points in a non-overtime play-off game since the previous "Big Three" of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in 1987.

Rozier revealed he was boosted by the challenge of protecting their home court, with the Celtics making 17 of 35 three-point attempts (48.6 per cent) in front of their legendary centre Bill Russell, who was seated courtside.

"My confidence is everything," the guard told TNT.

"My team-mates believe in me, my coaches believe in me, so you know I just want to keep it going."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens praised Horford, who was more than a match for fellow opposition centre Joel Embiid.

"I feel like he's really locked in. He's done a good job of knowing when to roll and post and play an interior spot, and then knowing when to pop and space," he said in an interview with NBA.com.

Embiid had 31 points while J.J. Redick scored 20 points for the 76ers, who suffered just their second loss since March 13. The first came during the 4-1 demolition of Miami in the previous round.

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown paid credit to Boston for limiting the East's third seeds' offence in a "very poor game from us".

Game 2 is in Boston tomorrow night (Friday morning, Singapore time).

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2018, with the headline 'Boston trio echo 1987 feat'. Print Edition | Subscribe