Celtics 89, 76ers 65

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BOSTON (AP)—Philadelphia coach Chris Ford urged his players to keep shooting, and they kept missing.

But by the time the 76ers hit the target consistently, they were too far back and lost to the Boston Celtics 89-65 on Sunday night while setting franchise records for offensive futility.

“Every timeout I just kept encouraging them, `the next one is going to go,”’ Ford said. “You can’t be hesitant and not take the open shots.”

They had plenty of shots but missed 65. Boston took only 77.

“They looked a little tired,” Boston coach John Carroll said. “They missed some good shots early and I think it just kind of fed into what was going on.”

Playing for the fifth straight game without injured Allen Iverson, the 76ers set club records for fewest points in a half (23) and in three quarters (41). The 76ers sank nine of 19 shots in the fourth quarter after hitting 15 of 70 before then. They finished at 24-for-89, or 27 percent.

“When you fall so far behind you have to do things differently to break it up,” Aaron McKie said. “We didn’t figure things out until it was too late.”

The Celtics, who moved a half game ahead of Cleveland into eighth place in the Eastern Conference, were led by Mark Blount, Ricky Davis and Jiri Welsch with 13 points each. For Philadelphia, Kenny Thomas had 18 and Kyle Korver 15.

“We ,missed a lot of wide open shots,” Korver said. “Unfortunately, it had to happen tonight (with) as big a game as this is.”

The 76ers dropped 2 1/2 games behind Boston in the race for the final playoff spot.

For the second straight game, the Celtics faced a team without two of its best players. They beat New Jersey on Friday night when Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin were sidelined.

The 76ers were 3-1 in their previous four games without Iverson. And Glenn Robinson is on the injured list after right elbow surgery. Together, they average 43 points per game as Philadelphia’s top two scorers, more points than the entire team scored in the first three quarters when it trailed 60-41.

The 76ers’ previous record for fewest points through three quarters was 42 on Dec. 28, 2002, against Utah.

“Credit our defense. I thought we did a good job scrambling,” said Paul Pierce who scored 11 points in just 27 minutes as Carroll gave his starters extra rest. “We just caught them on a bad night.”

There have been several lately. The 76ers were held below 70 points for the third time in eight games and fifth time this season.

The 65 points were the second fewest in club history with the shot clock. The team record was set in a 66-57 loss against Miami on Feb. 21, 1996. That’s the same game in which the 76ers set their previous record for fewest points in a half, 24.

They trailed 42-23 at intermission Sunday. The 23 points broke Boston’s record of 25 for the fewest allowed in a half.

The 76ers made just 10 of 45 shots in the first half, 22.2 percent, and sank only one of their first 17 in the third quarter. That left the Celtics on top 54-31 before Philadelphia made its next three shots, making the score 54-37.

“We set the tone from the start,” Pierce said. “Once we came into the third quarter and they didn’t make a run at the start we figured they were done.”

The closest the 76ers came in the fourth quarter was 68-52 on Korver’s 3-pointer with 7:05 left.

The game was still close with Boston leading 16-14 after McKie’s layup with 4:07 left in the first quarter. But the 76ers went scoreless for the next 6:36 until Thomas hit a short jumper that made it 25-16 with 9:34 left in the half.

Philadelphia made just two field goals the rest of the quarter and Boston went on a 17-5 run for its biggest lead of the half, 42-21 with 1:23 to go inthe quarter.

Notes

The 76ers also played without injured Derrick Coleman, Todd MacCulloch and Marc Jackson. … They had won their last three games, all at home. …Boston is 10-4 in its last 14 games.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Philadelphia
K. Thomas K. Thomas
8-20,  18 Pts
9 Rebs, 2 Assists
 Boston
R. Davis R. Davis
6-14,  13 Pts
6 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists