Kyrie Irving leaves game with knee injury

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"This is a new team", Simmons said. Al Horford had 23 and Jayson Tatum scored 20 and grabbed 10 rebounds to help the Celtics continued their dominance over the Sixers.

Defensively, Horford had the toughest assignment of the night and he made it look easy.

He was the focal point of the offense, much like we saw throughout last year's Eastern Conference semifinals.

Toward the bigger picture, Celtics forward Marcus Morris pulled no punched in his postgame comments, describing Boston's effort at "unacceptable". His 26 points off the bench led both teams, and he shot an impressive 6-7 from deep in the contest.

Irving stayed in the game for two more minutes before exiting, although the Clippers scored eight unanswered points during that stretch, while Irving missed a driving layup. The nuances of rotations, play calls and defensive concepts don't disappear now that he has Tobias Harris on his team. Way tougher, way more aggressive.

Also, the Celtics have now surrendered second-half leads in each of their last two games at home to borderline playoff teams in the Western Conference in the Clippers and Lakers. Embiid, however, scored his 23 points on 9-for-22 shooting.

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He also scored a team-high from the charity stripe - where he went a ideal 7-of-7. Even when we're winning it's still not fun.

"I was sleep-walking through three quarters", he said. "This was one of the better games". "It's about the attitude that we're playing with. But I'm excited with everyone we have and to see how far we can go".

But the Sixers do have to be concerned with their recent run of form with the Celtics. It was the kind of response that was missing against the Lakers and the Clippers; the sense of urgency to not only string together defensive stops but to punch back offensively as well.

Fortunately, the Celtics won't be without Irving for long, although the team may still consider holding him out through the All-Star break in order to rest his ailing knee. This is what we're going with. It's not fun. We're not competing at a high level.

"When you want to win, that has to be the first goal".

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