The Philadelphia 76ers (33-25) finished the gauntlet against conference rivals that greeted them right out of the All-Star break by facing the Boston Celtics (46-12) in TD Garden. The Sixers got an outstanding game out of Tyrese Maxey but couldn’t take down the NBA's best team, losing 117-99.

Let’s break down the Sixers' defeat.

76ers player notes:

Tyrese Maxey: 32 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 12-24 FG shooting

The 76ers have talked often about a need to organize their offense much better. Maxey takes a lot of responsibility and holds himself accountable for that. He did that in this game, settling things down and then breaking down his defender extremely well. His three-point shooting wasn’t outrageous but he scored the ball extremely well.

Maxey was also stellar on defense, disrupting the Celtics' flow with timely positioning and aggressive plays made on the ball. He held his ground exceptionally well against pretty much everyone. The numbers don’t show it but this was absolutely one of Maxey's best performances of the season. It's up there with his 50-point performances.

Celtics player notes:

Jayson Tatum: 29 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 9-20 FG shooting

Tatum's well-rounded impact shined in this game. His buckets and his assists came mostly on shots right at the rim. Once again, he played a role in a spectacular, unified effort from C's. Derrick White and Kristaps Porzingis were monsters on defense and Jaylen Brown was very efficient. But Tatum put the game away with a great run in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points.

Game recap:

Once upon a time, the undermanned 76ers almost stole a win on the Celtics' home court. The team looks immensely different now than it did then. The recently traded Patrick Beverley was fantastic in that game but now, Philly had Maxey healthy to go against Boston on top of a reshuffled, more dangerous roster. But with Kyle Lowry, Nico Batum and De’Anthony Melton still on soft minutes restrictions and the Sixers having shown little fight against other top teams, this one looked tough to win.

KJ Martin remained out, as did Joel Embiid and Robert Covington, while Boston was at full strength. Kelly Oubre Jr. moved back to the starting lineup.

1st half

Oubre started the game matched up with Tatum while White started out on Maxey. Hield began the contest with a pair of triples and a great pass to a cutting Tobias Harris for an and-one layup. A strong start from the 76ers, who went up 11-1 early, was met with 10 unanswered points. Although Maxey was cooking off the dribble, the ball got away from him and Philly struggled to get any good looks.

White and Porzingis bullied the non-Maxey Sixers on defense, forcing them into really bad shots or straight-up ripping the ball away. Maxey's speed and creativity generated great shots and Hield's off-ball movement was very helpful. He was responsible for 13 of Philly's first 18 points.

Batum, Melton and Lowry all came into the game together with Batum as the first backup center again. Ricky Council IV also made an early appearance, scoring a layup over Porzingis and slamming home a miss from Maxey. The All-Star guard continued to make every defender in his way look lead-footed on his way to 12 points in the opening period, which concluded in a tie at 30 points apiece.

The Celtics went to a zone defense that managed to make the Sixers work hard and move the ball around. Mo Bamba eventually subbed in and played alongside Batum but committed a pair of shooting fouls. Despite drawing one of those fouls and scoring on an early-shot-clock post-up, Brown was unable to get the C's second unit further ahead.

The starters trickling back into the game helped the Sixers get going more on offense and get out to a six-point lead. Maxey gave White a taste of his own medicine by blocking one of his shots. But Brown fired back by scoring on fast breaks, including one he created himself by stealing a pass from Harris. His best use is as a play finisher and he did a great job of that in the first half

Maxey had been nothing short of brilliant in the first half. A la James Harden in last year's playoffs, he unleashed a heater in Boston without Embiid to make the game competitive. Boston committed nine turnovers and shot 2-11 from deep, allowing Philly to stay right in it.

At the break, the 76ers trailed 53-51.

2nd half

The half started really well for the Sixers with Maxey stealing a pass and starting a fast break…only for Harris to blow the layup. The Celtics scored nine straight points as Philly failed to score for the first two minutes of the third quarter. Harris missing two threes from the corner, one of which was really open, didn’t help matters.

Maxey hitting a middie over White stopped the bleeding and Nurse went to Batum and Bamba to give Maxey some more spacing. It ended up working, as Maxey invited Porzingins to dance in space and was able to rip off some buckets. The Celtics' offense was rolling but so was he, playing like a man possessed and doing everything he could on both sides to get Philly even again.

Melton suffered from bask spasms that sidelined him for the rest of the game, thinning the Sixers' lineup even further. The Celtics pushed the lead up to a game-high of 14 as Maxey remained the most powerful engine for Philly's offense by a long shot. A turnover deep in their own territory allowed an open Tatum dunk to get the Celtics up by 11 points heading into the fourth quarter.

With Harris at center, Council and Cam Payne hit layups early in the fourth quarter to keep the 76ers going while Maxey rested. Payne drilled a three that was answered by an and-one and a free throw from Tatum. And then Payne drained another one, proving that this night belonged to shifty Sixers guards who can shoot. A corner three from Harris made it a two-point game.

Bamba subbed back in and immediately volleyball-spiked a shot. Maxey was subbed back in facing a six-point deficit with over seven minutes to play. The 76ers' offense went cold as the Celtics doubled their lead. Strong drives from Tatum did the trick. Harris once again got stopped at the rim by White as the Sixers failed to get out of their downward spiral. Even Maxey had come up shooting cold as Boston poured it on.

Darius Bazley, the final healthy Sixer for this game, made it into the game with over three minutes left. Philly saw old pal Jaden Springer in garbage time as Council tacked on one more great dunk.

Random tidbits:

  • Losing any player stings but losing Melton with another back issue is really bad news. The severity of his injury will be recognized in the coming days but after missing 18 games with a back issue, this was the last thing he needed.
  • Jrue Holiday wearing the U.S. Women’s National Team jersey of his wife, Lauren, was really cool. But the Celtics social media team had another bad blunder.

The 76ers' next game is at home on Friday against the Charlotte Hornets.