BOSTON — Brett Brown's voice was hoarse, his face red, his eyes glassy — the effects of storming up and down the sideline, pleading his team for its best effort while leading a fight that was nothing but an uphill battle.
"We just try to remember who we are even though we didn't have any point guards," Brown said. "You can still find ways to do better defensively. I thought we reclaimed who we are in the third period. That's the nature of this group, we've done this a lot."
After facing a 60-42 deficit at halftime, the Sixers outscored the Celtics 27-15 in the third quarter, trimming Boston's lead to just six. Brown kept the lineup of Hollis Thompson, K.J. McDaniels, Luc Mbah a Moute, Henry Sims and recently signed Tim Frazier to open the fourth, and Philly managed to make it an 80-77 game with 8:14 left to play following a Thompson triple.
Then — as Frazier said post-game, basketball is a game of runs — Boston flipped the switch, used a 19-7 run of it's own to claim 99-84 lead with 2:52 remaining. Brown called timeout to rally the troops, but the game had already been decided.
"They're a team that's hanging around and trying to make the playoffs," Brown said of the Celtics. "All the good teams have something you can call upon that can, bam, change a game. [Marcus Thornton] went whack, whack, they hit another three. It set the table for the rest of the game."
Behind big first half performances from Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley, the Boston Celtics built a 60-42 halftime lead. With starting point guard Michael Carter-Williams sidelined with an ailing right foot, Brown looked to JaKarr Sampson to begin the game with lead ball-handling duties.
PointKarr didn't exactly work to Brown's plans. As a team, the Sixers struggled mightily on offense, shooting just 30 percent in the first quarter. As a team, the Sixers' 11 first-half turnovers resulted into 14 points for Boston.
Frazier did manage to right the ship, however. Making his NBA debut, the former Penn State point guard dished 11 assists to just two turnovers and grabbed five rebounds in 35 minutes of action leading the Sixers' rally. Thompson (16 points) and Sims (12 points) also delivered strong performances off the bench.
Mbah a Moute chipped in a team-high 18 points on 7-14 shooting. His progression as an offensive player continues to be entertaining.
In the end, it's another loss with positives sprinkled in left and right. The Sixers are back in action tomorrow vs. Charlotte. It seems unlikely we'll see Carter-Williams dressed for game action on Saturday, let alone before the All-Star break out of precaution.