PHILADELPHIA — When the Philadelphia 76ers were going through their historically horrendous 1972-73 season, which produced just nine wins, the team was thought to be the league’s spa. They were the team other teams wanted to play to get better.
The 2015-16 team, which also has produced just nine wins, has taken the spa thing a step further.
Boston’s trip to the spa on Sunday night was a bit bumpy at times but the Celtics left the Wells Fargo Center feeling a little better about themselves.
Led by the overpowering Amir Johnson and a solid floor game from Evan Turner (17 points, nine rebounds, six assists) the Celtics (40-30), having lost four of their previous six games and dropping from third to sixth place in the Eastern Division playoff standings, received the massage and pedicure they so sorely needed with a 120-105 win.
With the 76ers playing without bigs Jahlil Okafor (torn right meniscus) and Richaun Holmes (right Achilles tendon soreness), Philadelphia coach Brett Brown knew his young and undermanned team was in trouble in the paint. And it was obvious from the opening tap.
In the first quarter alone, Boston outscored the 76ers (9-61) in the paint, 20-4, and owned the backboards, 19-12.
Johnson was strong underneath, hitting nine of 10 shots for 18 points, and Jared Sullinger bulled his way to 17 hard-fought points and 13 rebounds.
But when the 76ers began to make a third-quarter push, getting to within 76-70, it was the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas (26 points, 10-for-10 from the line) who pushed back. The diminutive All-Star guard, who averaged 25.7 points a game against the 76ers in their previous three meetings, had just eight points at the half on 2-for-9 shooting. In the third quarter, Thomas knocked down 13 points, including a three at the buzzer, giving Boston an 88-79 lead.
Keeping the 76ers in the game was 32-year-old Carl Landry. Battling his way against the Celtics’ collection of trees, Landry scored 26 points, grabbed eight boards and allowed Philadelphia to stay within single digits throughout most of the fourth quarter.
A floater by Nerlens Noel, off a feed from Ish Smith, got the 76ers to within 96-91, but a 17-8 Celtics run put the game away.
NOTES: Celtics coach Brad Stevens, addressing his team’s struggles of late, said, “Go by your gut, go by human nature, and focus on what you can control. We need to get back to playing as well as we can.” … Sunday night’s game was the start of one of 19 back-to-backs for the Celtics.
Raptors 105, Orlando 100
TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors kept pace with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, defeating the Orlando Magic 105-100 on Sunday at Air Canada Centre.
With the victory Toronto (48-21) moved to a game back of the Cavaliers (49-20).
DeMar DeRozan led the way with a game-high 25 points and five assists. Luis Scola added 20 points and eight rebounds while Kyle Lowry chipped in with 18 points and seven assists.
Center Bismack Biyombo picked up his third double-double in four games while filling in for the injured Jonas Valanciunas. Biyombo finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Toronto has now won four straight and improved to 13-4 since the all-star break.
Orlando (29-40) was paced by 21 points and six rebounds from Victor Oladipo while Evan Fournier had 21 points. Canadian Andrew Nicholson chipped in with 15 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
The Magic have now lost three straight and have just three wins in their last 11. Orlando trails the Chicago Bulls by six games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto used a 10-0 run to take a four-point lead with 5:22 left in the fourth and hung on for the victory.
The Magic carried an 82-80 lead into the fourth on the strength of 51.6 percent shooting from the field. Toronto’s struggled on the offensive side of the ball as well missing 12 free throws through three quarters while shooting 45.8 percent.
Oladipo led the way with nine second quarter points as the Magic took a 55-53 lead into recess.
Orlando outscored Toronto 23-16, including a 13-2 run, to take its first lead of the game, 48-46 with 3:28 remaining in the half.
DeRozan led the Raptors with 18 points at the break.
Scola scored four unanswered to give Toronto a 30-25 lead after one period.
The Raptors went on a 10-3 run to take a 15-5 lead ahead of the game’s first time-out with 6:33 remaining in the first. Following the Magic time-out, Orlando went on a 15-6 surge to pull to within two.