Joel Embiid scored 52 points on 20-of-25 shooting and added 13 rebounds, six assists and two blocks to lead the host Philadelphia 76ers to a 103-101 win over the Boston Celtics in Tuesday night’s showdown between a pair of Eastern Conference contenders.
It was Embiid’s fifth career 50-point game.
James Harden added 20 points and 10 assists for Philadelphia (52-27), which has won three of four and avoided a four-game season sweep in the head-to-head series.
P.J. Tucker (11 points) scored back-to-back 3-pointers during a 12-1 run that ultimately swayed the game in the Sixers’ favor.
Six Boston players scored double-digit points, led by Derrick White’s 26 on four 3-pointers.
Jayson Tatum had 19 points, six assists and three steals.
A hot start to the fourth helped Boston (54-25) take its first lead after halftime as Blake Griffin pulled down rebounds that led to tying and go-ahead 3-pointers by White and Malcolm Brogdon by the 9:35 mark.
A White 3-pointer and Marcus Smart drive gave Boston an 86-81 lead with 6:19 left before Embiid turned the game again, scoring five straight points, including a three-point play on a free-throw-line jumper with 3:40 left.
Boston responded to Tucker’s treys with corner shots by Al Horford and Grant Williams, but its hope looked bleak until White sliced the deficit to 103-101 with two seconds left.
After Williams drew an offensive foul on an inbounds play, Tatum’s tough 3-point attempt from the corner at the buzzer clanked off the rim.
The 76ers carried a 53-46 lead out of a first half that featured six ties and seven lead changes.
Embiid and Harden combined to give Philadelphia an early 10-2 advantage, but a 12-4 Boston run knotted the score when Tatum hit a triple with 4:59 left in the opening quarter.
Brogdon followed with a trey of his own to flip the score before a 10-3 spurt from the hosts finished the period. Embiid scored seven points in that span and finished with 18 through just the first 12 minutes.
The teams traded leads early in the second quarter after a 7-0 Boston run. Philly took its largest lead of the half after two Harden free throws late, but Smart’s scoop shot with three seconds left brought Boston within seven.
Embiid scored 14 points in the third quarter, including a fadeaway 4:01 into the period that extended Philly’s lead to eight. The hosts never trailed in the third, but White’s floater with 1:12 left made it 68-67.
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