BOSTON -- Before tip-off on Friday night, Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn twice restarted the National Anthem after losing her place. On the third attempt, the TD Garden crowd helped carry her to the finish line.
And yet Kuhn still had a better start to the night than the visiting Philadelphia 76ers.
The Boston Celtics scored the game's first nine points, pushed their lead as high as 26 in the first half, and then fended off Philly's ferocious second-half rally en route to a 107-96 triumph.
Philadelphia, which had been playing more inspired ball recently, looked disheveled for much of the first half. With Hamilton, Mass., native Michael Carter-Williams sidelined by a foot injury, the already turnover-happy 76ers utilized a point guard combo featuring rookies JaKarr Sampson and Tim Frazier, who had been signed to a 10-day contract out of Boston's D-League affiliate in Maine on Thursday.
The Celtics were still up 21 midway through the third quarter, before letting off the gas pedal. The 76ers clawed within six before the end of the frame, then twice surged within three in the fourth quarter, but both times Marcus Thornton answered with 3-pointers for Boston.
One of Thornton's triples ignited a 16-4 run that had Boston out front securely by 15 with 2:52 to play.
After the game, Jared Sullinger commended the Boston crowd for picking up the anthem singer.
"I thought that was big time on our fans," said Sullinger. "That’s big time. When you’re singing in front of people -- I can only imagine the nerves that were going through her. For our crowd to pick her up, the way they did, without laughing at her, and just being by her side, it shows a lot of respect from this city of Boston and I thought that was big time on our fans."
• Sullinger paces C's: Sullinger scored a team-high 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting with eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and a block over 30:21. Avery Bradley added 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting, while Thornton and Tyler Zeller had 16 points apiece off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute had a team-high 18 points for the 76ers.
• Loose balls: The Celtics stuck with their recent nine-man rotation. Phil Pressey played the final minute, while Gerald Wallace was a healthy DNP. ... Tayshaun Prince (hamstring) sat out his fourth straight game. .... The 76ers turned the ball over 17 times for 20 points; Boston gave it away 10 times for 11 points. ... Philadelphia never led as Boston went wire-to-wire despite the 76ers' rally.
• What it means: The Celtics have now won three straight to improve to 19-30; the 76ers fall to 11-40. Boston closes out a stretch of four games in five nights by visiting the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.