BOSTON — It was easy to get overshadowed by Joel Embiid’s spectacular performance in the 76ers’ 115-109 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night at TD Garden.
Embiid, who had been criticized by Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal for not playing hard enough and then said he didn’t disagree with the two Hall of Famers, had 38 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and just two turnovers.
He was the main attraction before the game, during it and then afterward.
Yet the Sixers (19-7) had others who made major contributions to the win. While competing in Embiid’s immense shadow, Mike Scott, for one, played a huge role in handing the Celtics their first home loss of the season.
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With Al Horford sidelined because of left knee soreness and left hamstring tightness, coach Brett Brown gave the 6-foot-8 Scott his second start of the season.
Brown usually likes to have Scott coming off the bench because of the energy he brings to the lineup. Scott earned his first start because Brown was trying to get him out of a funk, and it worked. He scored a season-high 21 points in a 141-94 rout of Cleveland on Saturday.
Since then, Scott has been playing well, but Brown had a different reason for starting him this time.
“I just felt like the spirit of which we needed to combat, given our history in this building, we needed more of an adult,” Brown said in a crowded hallway at TD Garden afterward. “And Mike Scott, if he is anything, he is that. He provides physicality and makes shots.”
Scott scored 15 points, shooting 5-for-7, all from three-point range. He had a plus-17 rating, second on the team to Embiid’s plus-21.
More importantly, Scott got the Sixers going early. He was 4-for-4 in the first half, hitting two threes in both the first and second quarters. He also added four rebounds and zero turnovers in 28 minutes and 52 seconds.
“Mike is a beast,” point guard Ben Simmons said. “He is always locked in, always ready to play, and when he lets it fly, looks like it is going in.”
That has certainly been the case lately: Scott is 12-for-22 (54.5%) from beyond the arc in his last four games.
Afterward, Scott said that his preparation doesn’t change whether he is starting or coming off he bench.
“I just do my job, catch and shoot, move the ball, play defense,” he said. “It is the same role that I have coming off the bench.”
He credited his teammates for getting him open looks.
“I was just playing off Jo [Embiid], just playing off Ben. They cause a lot of attention,” he said. “I have to just be ready to catch and shoot and let it fly.”
Scott is among the more even-keeled players on the team. But even he showed some enthusiasm about the victory.
“This win was great,” he said. “It is a tough place to win here, they are our rival and it’s great, man, very tough to win here in Boston."
During his two seasons with the Sixers, guard JJ Redick was popular with the fans and his teammates. Redick, who signed a two-year, free-agent deal with the New Orleans Pelicans during the summer, will make his only visit of the season to the Wells Fargo Center when the Sixers host the Pelicans on Friday night.
Redick, 35, averaged 17.6 points and shot 40.7% from three-point range in his two Sixers seasons. This season, he is averaging 15.1 points and shooting 44.8% on threes. That is the second-best three-point shooting percentage in his career, topped only by the 47.5% mark in 2015-16 with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Redick had his two best scoring seasons with the Sixers, averaging 18.1 points last season and 17.1 the prior year.
Tonight: Pelicans at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Sunday: Sixers at Brooklyn, 6 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Wednesday: Miami Heat at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Dec. 20: Dallas at Sixers, 8 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN
Dec. 21: Washington at Sixers,, 7 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia
Question: Did Joel answer the challenge put down by Shaq and Charles? — Ian G. Smith, @ismith007
Answer: Thanks for the question, Ian. While it is only one game, Embiid demolished the challenge and the competition in the win over the Celtics. We listed his stats above. It’s interesting that he said he wasn’t angry about the criticism, and used it as motivation, even talking to Shaq about it in a nonconfrontational way.
Maybe that is a sign that Embiid, at 25, is maturing as a player and person. Of course, we caution that there will need to be a bigger sample size, but he not only was motivated, but he also acted like a true leader on the court.