LOS ANGELES, USA – Jimmy Butler led a fourth-quarter comeback as the Philadelphia 76ers overpowered the Boston Celtics, 118-115, in a stormy NBA Eastern Conference duel on Wednesday, March 20 (Thursday, March 21, Manila time).
Butler scored 15 points in the final period as the Sixers overturned a nine-point deficit to seal their first win of the season against Boston while extending their winning streak to 6 games.
Butler, who was slow to settle in Philadelphia following his acrimonious move from the Minnesota Timberwolves in November, finished with 22 points including a decisive jump shot late in the 4th quarter.
Center Joel Embiid also delivered a towering performance for the Sixers, finishing with 37 points, a career-high 22 rebounds and 4 assists.
Embiid was also at the center of the bruising encounter's flashpoint in the 3rd quarter which led to Celtics star Marcus Smart being ejected.
Replays appeared to show Embiid obstruct Smart with an elbow, prompting a furious reaction from the Celtics guard. Smart shoved Embiid forcefully to the floor after their collision, triggering a melee.
Embiid refused to react, and officials wasted no time in tossing Smart from the contest.
@JoelEmbiid (37 PTS, career-high 22 REB) & @KyrieIrving (36 PTS) go back and forth as the @sixers top Boston for their 6th straight win! #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/9JVg3uecEN — NBA (@NBA) March 21, 2019
Boston, meanwhile, was left to reflect on a frustrating evening which saw them fail to capitalize on a big early lead of 60-46 in the 2nd quarter.
Kyrie Irving led the scoring with 36 points for the Celtics, who fell to 43-28 with the loss. The 76ers improved to 46-25 to keep a firm grip on 3rd place in the Eastern Conference table.
Embiid said he had been determined to produce a big performance after being riled by suggestions that the Celtics defense had his measure.
"I've been hearing that these guys can guard me better than anyone else, so I just had to come out and show that I'm the most unstoppable player in the league," the 7-foot-tall Cameroonian said.
Embiid, meanwhile, had special praise for Butler's decisive fourth-quarter contribution.
"He's a closer," Embiid said. "My job is to get him in the forecourt and let him do his thing. The last few games he's been fantastic." – Rappler.com