PHILADELPHIA — The Boston Celtics were relieved to end their losing streak. Now, they want to get on a roll heading into the playoffs.
Isaiah Thomas led six Celtics players in double figures with 26 points to help Boston snap a four-game skid with a 120-105 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.
Jared Sullinger added 17 points and 13 rebounds for Boston, which swept the four-game season series against the 76ers to make it eight consecutive wins against Philadelphia. The Celtics avoided matching their longest losing streak of the season with the victory. They improved to 40-30.
"We still had some lulls, but for the most part we got some confidence back and got close to Boston Celtics basketball," Thomas said. "Back to the winning ways as quick as you can to gain confidence and gain momentum going into the playoffs. We have to lock in these last 12 games."
Carl Landry scored 26 points for the 76ers, who have lost five in a row and 18 of the last 19 to fall to 9-61.
"Losing is hard – period," centre Nerlens Noel said.
The possibility of Philadelphia matching the 1972-73 76ers for the worst record over an 82-game schedule is growing. Eight of Philadelphia’s 12 remaining games are against clubs who began Sunday with winning records. Seven of the 12 contests are on the road.
Their best chance for a victory may be during a four-game homestand April 2-10 that includes games against New Orleans, the Knicks and Milwaukee – all of which had losing records entering Sunday. Of the remaining opponents, the 76ers have defeated only Portland. Philadelphia routed the Trail Blazers 114-89 on Jan. 16 at home, a defeat they will try to avenge Saturday night in Portland.
Philadelphia managed to hang around for much of the third quarter, twice cutting the Celtics’ lead to six points. The final time came with 2.4 seconds left in the period on T.J. McConnell’s short, baseline jumper that made it 85-79. But Thomas raced the ball up the court and drained a 3-pointer as time expired to give Boston an 88-79 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
The 76ers got as close as four points in the final period on Landry’s dunk with 9:20 left that made it 91-87, but they wouldn’t get any closer.
"Our guys came out ready, came out focused," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "We knew it was an important game to play well. You can’t always control the results, but you can control your input into it. Guys played with good purpose."
Philadelphia wasn’t helped by Noel fouling out with 4:49 remaining. Noel finished with four points, eight rebounds and five assists and was 2 for 8 from the field and 0 for 4 from the free-throw line.
The 76ers’ chances of beating the Celtics took a hit in the first quarter when they missed 17 straight shots on their way to a 28-16 first-quarter deficit.
"That’s hard to do," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said.
Philadelphia shot 19.2 per cent (5-for-26) from the field in the period.
The Celtics’ postgame spread for the players and staff featured a full table of fruits and vegetables, much more than normally seen for visiting teams in Philadelphia.
All five Celtics starters reached double-figures. Besides Thomas and Sullinger, Avery Bradley scored 20, Amir Johnson had 18 and Evan Turner netted 17. Marcus Smart came off the bench for 15 points.
Celtics: A large contingent of Celtics fans was scattered throughout the Wells Fargo Center crowd of 15,103. … Boston also defeated the 76ers 112-92 on Jan. 24 in Philadelphia and twice in Boston, 84-80 on Nov. 26 and 112-95 on Oct. 28.
76ers: C Jahlil Okafor will have season-ending knee surgery on Monday. The rookie has missed the last 11 games. … C Joel Embiid returned to Qatar for treatment on his ankle. … Forwards Robert Covington (concussion) and Richaun Holmes (Achilles) each missed their fourth consecutive game. … Philadelphia opens a four-game road trip Monday night in Indiana. . Brown was issued a technical foul with 7:09 left in the second quarter.
Celtics: Host Orlando Monday night.
76ers: At Indiana Monday night.