Celtics beat 76ers 105-87 as Hayward, Irving make returns
BOSTON (AP) — The Celtics will need time to figure out how to get the most out of their loaded roster this season.
It didn't stop them from picking up their first victory on a night they celebrated the official return of their two biggest stars.
Jayson Tatum had 23 points and nine rebounds, and the Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 105-87 on Tuesday night in the season opener for both teams.
Boston won despite shooting just 43 percent (42 of 97) from the field and 30 percent from the 3-point line (11 of 37). But the Celtics' struggles didn't dampen the mood inside TD Garden for the return to regular-season action for Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving.
Hayward said it was "amazing" to be back out there.
"My adrenaline was pumping those first three or four minutes," Hayward said. "I think everybody's adrenaline was pumping. It was sloppy at first. It was great just to be out there. It was a big step for me."
Marcus Morris added 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Al Horford had nine points and five blocks.
The Celtics survived a lethargic start and rough shooting night but rallied to lead by as many as 18 in the second half.
Including the playoffs, Boston has won 10 straight games at home over Philadelphia, which it defeated in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.
Joel Embiid led the 76ers with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Ben Simmons finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.
Embiid made it clear afterward the 76ers have a way to go to be on the Celtics' level.
"This not a rivalry," he said. "I don't know our record against them. But it's pretty bad. They always kick our ass. So this is not a rivalry."
Hayward played in his first game since undergoing surgery and more than 10 months of rehabilitation for the gruesome left ankle injury he suffered five minutes into last year's season opener.
He received an extended ovation from the home crowd during a pregame introduction that included a video montage of his rehab process.
Irving was also back following a pair of surgeries on his left knee that caused him to miss the end of the regular season and playoffs.
After receiving loud ovations during pregame introductions, Irving and Hayward both had sluggish starts.
Hayward missed his first four shots before making back-to-back jumpers. Irving missed his first nine attempts from the field. He didn't score until finally connecting on a pair of free throws early in the third quarter.
They shot a combined 6 for 26 for the game. Hayward finished with 10 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes. Irving had seven points and seven assists.
The Celtics missed seven of their first 10 shots and the Sixers started just 4 for 11. The Sixers also committed 11 first-half turnovers that led to 10 Celtics' points.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he isn't worried.
"If we can guard like that, we've got a chance to be decent," he said.
76ers: Outscored the Celtics 50-34 in the paint. ... Jerryd Bayless (left knee), Wilson Chandler (strained left hamstring), and Mike Muscala (sprained left ankle) all sat out.
Celtics: Have won 15 of last 17 regular-season meetings with 76ers. ... Outrebounded the 76ers 55-47.
Boston got some distance in the second half thanks largely to its bench, which outscored its Philadelphia counterparts 44-26. The Celtics opened the second half on a 14-5 run, hitting five of their first seven shots.
"We're all just unselfish," said Terry Rozier, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. "The depth, that's the most special part about this team."
One of the biggest changes for Philadelphia entering the new season is the insertion of second-year guard Markelle Fultz into the starting lineup.
The No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, he missed 68 games with a shoulder injury and was plagued by shooting issues and confidence problems.
Fultz finished with five points, three rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes.
76ers: Host the Bulls on Thursday.
Celtics: Visit the Raptors on Friday.