Irving Has Another 30+ Point Game, Celtics Pull Away From Sixers
Kyrie Irving scored 36 points and the Boston Celtics held off the weary and short-handed Philadelphia 76ers 108-97 on Thursday night to improve the NBA's best record to 19-4. It was Irving's fifth game this season with 30 or more points. Al Horford added 21 points and eight rebounds, and Marcus Morris had 17 points as the Celtics bounced back from Monday night's home loss to Detroit with their ninth victory in 11 games. Boston led by five at the end of the third quarter but started the fourth by connecting on seven of its first 11 shots to increase the margin to 95-82. Dario Saric led Philadelphia with 18 points. JJ Redick finished with 17 and Ben Simmons had 15. It was the third game in four nights for the 76ers, who have lost two of three. Saturday's game against Detroit will conclude a week featuring matchups with the East's three top teams. Philadelphia played without center Joel Embiid, who continues to rest on the second night of back-to-backs. With Embiid out, Celtics coach Brad Stevens went with a bigger lineup, starting Aron Baynes in place of Morris. Philadelphia was able to keep the game tight by knocking down 16 3-pointers. TIP-INS 76ers: A night after taking 29 free throws, an NBA rookie record, Simmons went to the line only four times. ... Embiid, Markelle Fultz (right shoulder soreness), T.J. McConnell (sprained AC joint, left shoulder) and Jahlil Okafor (individualized training) were not with the team. Celtics: Irving had five of Boston's 12 3-pointers. ... Boston outscored Philadelphia 44-36 in the paint. RUNNING TIME The Celtics ended the second quarter on an 11-3 run and took a 54-44 lead into halftime. Boston shot 48 percent from the field and was 7 of 16 from beyond the 3-point line. Philadelphia erased a 12-point deficit and took a 67-65 lead in the third quarter, but Boston got hot again, ending that period on an 11-4 run that included six points by Morris. TOUGH SCHEDULE The Sixers have already played some of the league's top teams just 21 games into the season. Thursday was their second meeting with the Celtics, and they've also played Golden State and Houston twice, and Cleveland. But coach Brett Brown is thankful for the tough road they've plodded thus far. ``We're playing NBA royalty right now,'' Brown said. ``We're playing against the league's best. The analytics people tell us we've had the most difficult schedule to date in the NBA, and it feels like that. But I think it expedites learning. ... You're always learning from All-Stars.'' UP NEXT 76ers: Begin a three-game homestand Saturday against the Detroit Pistons. Celtics: Continue their five-game homestand Saturday against the Phoenix Suns.