The Celtics rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit and were clinging to a one-point lead in the final seconds when Evan Turner blew past Jerryd Bayless and threw in a tough, contorting layup over Jared Sullinger as Philadelphia escaped with a 95-94 triumph at TD Garden.
The Celtics have lost four straight, 16 out of their last 18, and 19 of 22 dating back to Dec. 18.
"We’ve got to keep fighting," Gerald Wallace said. "A game like this kind of lets you know where you stand. It seemed like anything that could go wrong at the end did go wrong. We missed free throws. Kris [Humphries] missed a wide-open jump shot, which is right in his range and right in rhythm. Evan makes a floater going down the middle at the buzzer. Things went their way and we didn’t get the ball to bounce our way at the end."
The Celtics now own the third worst record in the league after flip-flopping spots with Philadelphia. Boston has three days off to collect itself before hosting the Orlando Magic (second-worst record in the league) on Sunday in a Super Bowl appetizer. Coach Brad Stevens said the practices later this week are extremely important to determining how the team will respond to a tough loss and the ongoing losing streak.
"There’s nowhere to go but up from here," Wallace said. "We’ve just got to continue. It just seems like when things start going bad, they really go bad for you. It seems like everything that can go wrong, goes wrong for you and it did tonight. I think our energy and effort was a little better than it was in the New York game, but it still seemed like we were a step behind them."
How do the Celtics cope with the mounting losses?
"If you have animals, you go home and hang out with them," Humphries said. "And spend time with family and you focus on your hobby when you're not practicing. When you are practicing, you practice hard and get ready for the next game."
Read on for more notes, including how help is on the way for the Celtics and the 76ers' New England contingent:
HELP IS ON THE WAY
The Celtics could get a double shot of energy on Sunday with the return of its starting backcourt.
Rajon Rondo was held out Wednesday on the second night of a back-to-back, the team exercising caution in his return from ACL surgery, while Stevens noted that Avery Bradley, who has missed five games with a sprained right ankle, is expected to be back for Sunday's game as well.
Phil Pressey, who has been spectacular recently, particularly in spot starts for Rondo, had one of his rougher outings of the season, missing six of his seven shots and turning the ball over five times over 21 minutes. Wallace, starting in place of Bradley at shooting guard, contributed just one point while missing the only shot he took over 34 minutes and was a minus-13 in plus/minus.
COMING HOME: MCW RETURNS TO BOSTON
Michael Carter-Williams, a native of nearby Hamilton, had two large groups of supporters in attendance on Wednesday night, including a luxury box filled with fans in blue "Team MCW" shirts (others, clad in red, were stationed on the opposite side of the arena).
Carter-Williams responded by putting up 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting with seven assists, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal over 35:27. The 76ers exploited his size against Pressey early on, though Boston countered with Bayless in the second half to negate that a bit.
Carter-Williams might have gotten some hometown help from the officials as well. The rookie had a rather egregious carry on the 76ers' final possession after losing control of the ball, but the suspense of the moment might have prevented a call. He quickly dished to Turner, who stormed the hoop for the winning bucket.
"It was great playing in front of everybody and them coming out to support me," Carter-Williams said. "I'm thankful for it and I'm glad we got the win for them."
Carter-Williams said he could hear the support from his friends and family, which even got a brief "M-C-W" chant going in the first half as the 76ers opened a double-digit advantage. Before the game, Stevens offered high praise for the first-year player.
"I think he’s one of the best rookies in the class," Stevens said. "I saw when they released the Rising Stars announcement that he was the one on the title and I think that says where people think he is. He’s playing very free. He’s really improved in a lot of areas. At the same time, he’s always had great ability, especially in open court, and in taking advantage of matchups with his size at the point."
NOT THE ONLY LOCAL IN THE BUILDING
Carter-Williams wasn't the only one with New England roots. Philadelphia first-year coach Brett Brown is a native of South Portland, Maine, and played collegiately at Boston University in the early '80s. He cut his coaching teeth in Australia before joining the San Antonio Spurs in 2002 (Brown was an assistant under Gregg Popovich from 2007-2013).
"It’s special [to be back in New England]," Brown said. "You can’t say it any other way. I had a chance to have a great run on the [Charles] River. You walk out and you run up near BU and you get flooded with memories of being back here and going to school here. And there’s a lot of people coming from Maine that I either grew up with or went to school with. I have a lot of family here. It’s a special moment."
But what happened to that Boston accent?
"I lived in Australia for 17 years. Tim Duncan called it, 'Bostralian,'" Brown joked. "I have said that before. I’ll stick with that. When I first came with Pop -- and I spent 12 years with the Spurs and Pop -- they’re not too sure at times what the accent is. When you live that long in another place, I guess you get a little bit absorbed with the twang."
Not only is Carter-Williams a local, but rookie center Nerlens Noel, working his way back from ACL surgery, is an Everett product.
"I love coaching those guys," Brown said of Carter-Williams and Noel. "We talk all the time about different things. I shoot with Nerlens -- we have Maine vs. Boston games. They’re from where I’m from, so to speak. This is our part of the world. When the Patriots go down, a week ago or whatever it was, it hurts a little bit. We talk about it. I just feel like there’s a silent camaraderie that they know I'm with them. I hope all my players feel like we’re a coaching staff that’s trying to develop [them]. With those two, it goes a little bit deeper because of our background."