NBA: Celtics pounce on 76ers with Jayson Tatum ejected in third

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) protests a call just before being ejected during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Boston.

Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (0) protests a call just before being ejected during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

BOSTON— Jayson Tatum insists he didn’t lose swear or lose his temper. He still wound up watching the end of the game from Boston’s locker room.

Tatum scored 21 points before he was ejected for arguing a foul call near the end of the third quarter, and the Celtics went on without him to beat the depleted Philadelphia 76ers 125-119 in the NBA on Friday night.

“They were ready. They were ready to throw me out,” Tatum said. “Did I cuss? No, I didn’t. … I was shocked. They always say, ‘Get your money’s worth. You’re going to get fined.’ I definitely did not get my money’s worth.”

The Sixers were without their top two scorers, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. But it was Tatum’s departure that changed the mood in the building.

Boston led by six points in the third and had a 95-91 lead in the final seconds of the quarter when De’Anthony Melton hit a long 3-pointer. Tatum was bringing the ball down along the sideline when he lost control; in the ensuing scramble he hit Robert Covington in the face.

Tatum was whistled for a foul. He voiced a lengthy objection and was ejected when, with Celtics coaches trying to hold him back, he interrupted the referees’ huddle. Tatum had already received a technical in the first half.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said he didn’t have a problem with Tatum showing some fight.

“I actually like it,” Mazzulla said. “I think some of that is important. Obviously, you don’t want it to get in the way of winning. But I think that type of passion and caring, I’d err on the side of I’d rather see that than nothing at all.”

As Tatum left the court, the crowd took over the complaining, showering the officials with a loud chorus of boos. After a review, Tatum’s foul was upgraded to a Flagrant 1; Covington hit the technical free three to tie it at 95.

“I thought I got fouled. I was trying to have a conversation about that play. It was as simple as that,” Tatum said. “I wasn’t that (expletive) mad. Don’t put that narrative out there. … I walked back calmly, I sat in my chair, got some ice. I was not mad. I did not throw anything. I watched the rest of the game. I watched us win.”

“Jayson continued to complain and was asked multiple times to head to his bench,” crew chief Bill Kennedy told a pool reporter. “He continued to complain about the foul called on the floor and overtly gestures toward the officials and was assessed a second technical foul.”

Melton was leading the 76ers in scoring with 21 points when he fouled out with 5:08 to play and Boston leading 111-108. Patrick Beverley scored 26 with eight rebounds and seven assists for Philadelphia, which led 116-115 before giving up the next eight points.

Derrick White also scored 21 for Boston and Payton Pritchard scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter. Jaylen Brown and Al Horford each scored 20 points for the Celtics, and they also combined for back-to-back blocks on Tobias Harris with Philadelphia leading 106-104 and eight minutes left.

“I thought everybody stepped up. That’s just the kind of team we have,” Mazzulla said. “The other guys just did what they had to do to win.”

Boston trailed 116-115 when Horford drove for a basket, the Celtics hit four straight free throws and Holiday found Pritchard under the basket to make it a seven-point game with 18 seconds left.

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76ers: At Washington on Wednesday night.

Celtics: At Indiana on Monday night in the quarterfinals of the In-Season Tournament.

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