BOSTON – This one certainly did not fit the script. 


Yet the 105-87 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers on opening night at TD Garden was in line with the story the Celtics promised to tell this season as a team that has the depth and talent to, at times, play matchups and the hot hands – while shying away from the cold ones regardless of their star power – on the way to a spectacular goal. 


The night was supposed to be about the celebrated [...]

BOSTON – This one certainly did not fit the script. 

Yet the 105-87 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers on opening night at TD Garden was in line with the story the Celtics promised to tell this season as a team that has the depth and talent to, at times, play matchups and the hot hands – while shying away from the cold ones regardless of their star power – on the way to a spectacular goal. 

The night was supposed to be about the celebrated returns of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving after the pair of All-Stars missed last year’s postseason run with injuries. But Hayward was held to a modest 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, and Irving sat the final 4:28 after missing 12 of 14 shots, and finished with just seven points in 29 minutes. 

Instead, it was the heroes of last year’s playoff run that came through with the biggest moments as the Celtics pulled away late for the triumph. 

“What is unique about our team is that our best players didn’t hit any shots tonight,” said Jayson Tatum, who filled the gap with 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting, “and we still win by (almost) 20. That won’t happen again. Everybody has off nights. But some guys can have off nights and other guys can step up.” 

Marcus Morris had 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, Terry Rozier had 11 off the bench, and Aron Baynes delivered a monster defensive effort with eight points and another menacing night on Philadelphia star Joel Embiid. 

“Our strength has to be in our depth,” Stevens said. “When one guy does not have it we need everyone else to pick them up. Everybody has to play with great effort because the guy behind him is chomping at the bit.” 

With a 17-point lead down to nine, and Irving at just 2-for-14 on the night, Stevens pulled the five-time All-Star for Rozier with 4:28 on the clock. It was then Rozier – after a Tatum bank shot and Al Horford's fifth blocked shot – who drilled a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 99-85 with 2:57 remaining in the game. 

“It’s good that you can look down your bench and you’ve got depth,” Rozier said. “You’ve got guys who can come in and make up for other guys. Some nights Kyrie is not going to have it going. Some nights, I could go down the line, everyone is not going to have it going or we would have 200 points if we do.

“Kyrie always keeps a great attitude. He’s still pushing the ball. You couldn’t even tell he wasn’t having a great night because he was still playing with pace.” 

Marcus Smart then ripped down a rebound and Tatum hit one from the line for a 15-point game with 2:34 to play. Hayward put the exclamation point on the night with a 3-pointer for a 103-87 lead with 1:40 remaining. 

Up 11 after three, Jaylen Brown started the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer and shot in the lane for an 82-67 lead with 10:57 on the clock. Irving hit Baynes in the corner for a 3-pointer and an 85-69 gap, then Baynes returned the favor to Irving cutting the basket for an 87-70 lead with 9:01 to play. 

“You say that (Hayward and Irving) didn’t have a great shooting night but they still created a lot of shots,” Baynes said. “They understand they have so much attention on them defensively that they can get us all open shots. They are willing to sacrifice. That’s the mentality we need. They are passing up good shots to get us great shots and that’s a real positive thing for us.” 

A Rozier jumper made it a 17-point game with 8:16 remaining before the 76ers rattled off five straight for an 89-77 score with 7:15 left. Morris then drilled a 3-pointer out of the pause and Brown answered a JJ Redick basket with a big slam with 6:37 to go. 

But the 76ers scored the next eight to put the game in doubt with less than five minutes to play and Stevens sent Irving to the bench for the unexpected – yet overwhelmingly successful – closing lineup.