LOS ANGELES: Boston star Jayson Tatum was ejected in the third quarter but the Celtics clawed out a 125-119 NBA victory over short-handed Philadelphia on Friday as the Orlando Magic notched a ninth straight win.
Tatum scored 21 points before he was tossed for arguing a foul call after tangling with Robert Covington with one second left in the third. Covington made the technical free throw, and two free throws awarded in the wake of Tatum’s flagrant foul, to put the Sixers up 97-95 going into the final period.
Philadelphia’s reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid missed a second straight game with illness. Ailing Tyrese Maxey and injured Nicolas Batum were ruled out shortly before the game.
But they pushed Boston to the finish, pulling ahead 116-115 with 2:28 remaining before Al Horford’s driving basket put Boston up for good with 2:09 to go.
Patrick Beverley scored 26 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out seven assists for Philadelphia.
De’Anthony Melton scored 21 points before he fouled out with less than six minutes to go.
Jaylen Brown and Horford scored 20 points apiece for Boston, who made eight of 11 three-pointers in a sizzling 44-point first quarter, but surrendered 72 points in the first half to trail by three at the break.
Tatum had received a technical in the first quarter, and when he was whistled for a foul after colliding with Covington his objections were so strong that Celtics coaches moved to steer him away from the officials.
He was ejected for just the second time in his career, and Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said he didn’t mind seeing that fire from his star.
“I think that type of passion and caring about it ... I’d rather see that than nothing at all,” Mazzulla said.
Horford said the Celtics had to lock back in after Tatum’s departure.
“We just had to get stops, get gritty,” he said.
In Orlando, German forward Franz Wagner scored 31 points and Paolo Banchero added 28 with 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Magic, who tied a franchise record with their ninth straight win, 130-125 over the Washington Wizards.
Moritz Wagner added 18 points for Orlando, who seized the lead for good in the game that featured 13 lead changes on Wagner’s layup with 7:06 remaining, the basket igniting a 7-0 scoring run.
“Really proud,” Banchero said, after the Magic matched their nine-game winning streaks of the 1994-95, 2000-01 and 2010-11 seasons.
“Obviously the work’s not done, but it shows just how hard we’ve been working, the chemistry we’ve been able to build so far. We just want to keep it rolling.”
In Dallas, the Memphis Grizzlies triumphed 108-94 against a Mavericks team missing Slovenian star Luka Doncic, who was away from the team after welcoming the birth of his daughter.
Kyrie Irving couldn’t fill the void, scoring just 10 points on three-of-15 shooting.
Desmond Bane led the Grizzlies with 30 points.
The San Antonio Spurs competed for the first time this season without star rookie Victor Wembanyama, who was sidelined with a sore hip.
The Spurs still managed to push the Pelicans in New Orleans, but even with relatively quiet nights for Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram — who scored 12 and 14 points respectively the Pelicans pulled away late for a 121-106 victory that marked the Spurs’ 14th straight defeat.