Kyrie Irving too strong as Celtics past 76ers in OT

Kyrie Irving extended the game with a clutch shot, then ended it with two more in overtime.

Boston’s Irving scored six of his 40 points in overtime, hitting back-to-back three-pointers as the host Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 121-114 on Tuesday night.

“Just competition at its highest. I love going against the best. It’s not too often you get to do that in the regular season, especially on a holiday like Christmas,” said Irving, who also pulled down 10 rebounds. “I got to open presents with my family this morning then come into work. It was great.”

It came very close to not being so great for Boston, which needed Irving’s fadeaway 13-foot jumper to tie it at 108 with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter, forcing the OT.

The Sixers, much improved from the team that lost here 105-87 in the season-opener, scored the first five points of OT, but could not stop Irving when they needed to — again.

“There aren’t many in his weight class,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “Inevitably, you’ve got to stop him.”

Irving hit a three-pointer with 2:01 left to put Boston up 115-114, then struck again from 30-feet with 1:29 remaining in the OT and the Celtics held on to improve to 2-0 against Philadelphia this season.

Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris scored 23 apiece for Boston and Terry Rozier had 10 points.

Joel Embiid led Philadelphia with 34 points, making 12 of 12 free throws, and pulled down 16 rebounds. Jimmy Butler scored 24 points, JJ Redick had 17 and Ben Simmons added 11 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists for the Sixers.

Simmons’ two free throws with 2:15 left put the Sixers up 114-112, but Philadelphia didn’t score again.

“These are the type of games that challenge you mentally, and we made sure that we stayed with it and finished it,” said Al Horford, who scored just four points but pulled down nine rebounds and helped mitigate the Sixers’ size advantage inside.

Rockets 113, Thunder 109: James Harden scored 41 points and Houston beat visiting Oklahoma City for its seventh win in eight games. Harden has scored 30 points or more in a career-high seven games in a row, marking the first time a player has done that since Russell Westbrook had eight consecutive 30-point games in November 2016. A three-pointer by Paul George with less than two minutes left got Oklahoma City within four before Harden missed a three. Westbrook missed a shot for the Thunder, but George stole the ball from Harden and was fouled by him. George made both free throws to get the Thunder within two with 43.6 seconds left. Harden then drove past George and into the lane for a layup to make it 112-108.

Bucks 109, Knicks 95: Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 14 rebounds in his Christmas debut, and Milwaukee celebrated its return to the holiday schedule by winning in New York. Brook Lopez scored 20 points for the Bucks, who improved the NBA’s second-best record to 23-10.

Jazz 117, Trail Blazers 96: Rudy Gobert had 18 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks and Donovan Mitchell added 19 points to lead host Utah. Joe Ingles chipped in 15 points, seven rebounds, and five assists for the Jazz, who won for the fifth time in their past six home games and shot 55 percent from the floor. Utah went 5-for-7 from three-point range in the second quarter after going 0-for-8 in the first quarter.

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