Celtics fight back to subdue Sixers for a 2-0 series lead

BOSTON • The Philadelphia 76ers tried the same trick again on Thursday night, flying rapper Meek Mill out to TD Garden.

Mill, who was released on bail last Tuesday, was a good-luck charm in the Sixers' Game 5 clincher against the Miami Heat but, this time round, his courtside presence in Boston fell flat as it was the Celtics who got out of jail.

Jayson Tatum had 21 points to help the hosts erase a 22-point second-quarter deficit en route to a 108-103 win, giving them a 2-0 lead in their National Basketball Association Eastern Conference semi-final series.

Terry Rozier added 20 points, while Marcus Smart contributed 19 and both Al Horford and Jaylen Brown, still nursing a sore hamstring, scored 13 for the hosts who were defending their record as the No. 1 defensive team in the league.

J. J. Redick led Philadelphia with 23 points including five three-pointers, Robert Covington finished with 22 points and Joel Embiid totalled 20 points for the 76ers, who despite getting off to a fast start, could not hold on to their lead.

Brown, who missed Game 1, played after being upgraded from doubtful to probable before the tip-off and the guard lauded the raucous home crowd as he and his team-mates fed off their "energy" .

"Man, I've never seen TD Garden like it was tonight. I'll remember that game forever. The way the crowd got behind us before the half," he added.

"That last five minutes, man. The energy was insane. I don't think I'll ever forget that. Like that was the moment to definitely remember."

The Celtics shut down 76ers Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons, who scored one point on 0-for-four shooting from the floor and committed five turnovers.

Asked what the Celtics did to slow him, Simmons said: "It was really what I did to myself. Mentally, I was thinking too much. I was not out there flowing, playing the way I play, which is free."

Philadelphia edged back into the lead in the fourth quarter, but Boston responded with an 11-5 scoring run and held on for the win.

"That's the story of our season," Tatum said of their comeback. "But we have a never-say-die mentality."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2018, with the headline 'Celtics fight back to subdue Sixers for a 2-0 series lead'. Print Edition | Subscribe