LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Jimmy Butler led a fourth quarter comeback as the Philadelphia 76ers overpowered the Boston Celtics 118-115 in a stormy Eastern Conference duel on Wednesday.
Butler scored 15 points in the final period as the Sixers overturned a nine-point deficit to seal their first win of the season against Boston while extending their winning streak to six games.
Butler, who was slow to settle in Philadelphia following his acrimonious move from the Minnesota Timberwolves in November, finished with 22 points including a decisive jump shot late in the fourth quarter.
Center Joel Embiid also delivered a towering performance for the Sixers, finishing with 37 points, a career-high 22 rebounds and four assists.
Embiid was also at the center of the bruising encounter’s flashpoint in the third quarter which led to Celtics star Marcus Smart being ejected.
Replays appeared to show Embiid obstruct Smart with an elbow, prompting a furious reaction from the Celtics guard. Smart shoved Embiid forcefully to the floor after their collision, triggering a melee.
Embiid refused to react, and officials wasted no time in tossing Smart from the contest.
Boston, meanwhile, was left to reflect on a frustrating evening which saw them fail to capitalize on a big early lead of 60-46 in the second quarter.
Kyrie Irving led the scoring with 36 points for the Celtics, who fell to 43-28 with the loss. The 76ers improved to 46-25 to keep a firm grip on third place in the Eastern Conference table.
Embiid, meanwhile, said he had been determined to produce a big performance after being riled by suggestions that the Celtics defense had his measure.
“I’ve been hearing that these guys can guard me better than anyone else, so I just had to come out and show that I’m the most unstoppable player in the league,” the 7-foot tall Cameroonian said.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens took a dim view of Smart’s loss of control that saw him ejected.
“We needed him out there,” Stevens said. “We love all that Marcus is. And part of Marcus is his fire. A time or two a year, it gets the best of him.”