Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown strive to keep their rhythm when the revitalized Boston Celtics visit Joel Embiid and the rival Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
Tatum and Brown combined for 67 points in the Celtics’ 119-100 win at Indiana to complete a home-and-home series sweep of the Pacers on Wednesday.
Brown had a game-high 34 points and Tatum chipped in 33 with seven rebounds in the victory, which was Boston’s third in a row and fifth in its last seven games.
Tatum and Brown combined for 50 or more points in three of their past four games and are averaging a combined 51.8 points between them over the past five. Their synchronized production has helped spark the Celtics’ recent resurgence.
“It hasn’t happened as much this year as we’ve liked, but it’s not like new to us,” Tatum said. “We’ve done it before in the past. I think more often than not we’ve played well together.”
Added Brown, “We need to score, we need to keep playing defense. Obviously I want Jayson to reach his potential and get everything out of this game that he wants to get out of it. So to see him going is great, it inspires me.”
Much to the delight of defensive-minded coach Ime Udoka, the Celtics have stepped up their effort on the defensive end of late. Boston has held opponents to an average of 96 points over its last five games.
Boston was without starting guard Marcus Smart (right thigh contusion) on Wednesday against Indiana. Smart was ruled out against the 76ers on Friday morning after being placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocol.
Philadelphia had been on a tear before falling 109-98 versus Charlotte on Wednesday despite a game-high 31 points from Embiid.
The loss snapped the 76ers’ season-best seven-game winning streak. Overall, Philadelphia has won eight of its last 10 games after dropping four of its previous five.
“Flat. We were flat tonight,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “That happens, but you still should play right. I just didn’t think we played right tonight.”
It was Embiid’s fifth consecutive game scoring exactly 31 points. The four-time All-Star center has been the 76ers’ top point producer in 11 consecutive games, scoring fewer than 31 points just once during that stretch (23 versus Atlanta on Dec. 23).
“It starts with me. I wasn’t good enough today,” Embiid said postgame. “Too many turnovers (a game-high seven), mainly offensive fouls, but that still counts as turnovers so (I’ve) got to do a better job.”
Danny Green briefly left the game for Philadelphia after taking a hard fall, but returned after having his right hip examined. 76ers guard Shake Milton (back) missed Wednesday’s game while All-Star Ben Simmons remains away from the team following his trade request.
The 76ers’ recent resurgence began with a 108-103 win at Boston on Dec. 20. Embiid had 41 points and 10 rebounds, Seth Curry scored 26 and Tobias Harris added 25 to overcome 30- and 17-point games from Brown and Tatum, respectively.
The Celtics won the first meeting between the teams this season on Dec. 1 at Philadelphia, 88-87, with Dennis Schroder’s bucket with 37.1 seconds remaining putting the game out of reach.
–Field Level Media