By Tommy Matthews

NBA stars are being traded left and right before today’s 3 p.m. deadline.

And the Sixers needs were so obvious last night that the pressure is on big boss Daryl Morey to make a move.

The NBA-leading Boston Celtics bench was good enough to beat the Sixers 106-99 even though three of the Celtics’ regular starters were out — Jaylen Brown Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White.

Brown, who missed the previous game with a non-COVID illness, left the game after colliding with Jayson Tatum under the basket when they were both going for an offensive rebound.

Tatum had 12 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for Boston, which won for the fourth time in five games to add to the NBA’s best record (39-16). The 76ers (34-19) are second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference, having lost both matchups with the Celtics this season.

“Boston has beaten us twice, and Boston won the East last year. Boston is the best team in the East. I said that before,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said.

“It’s our job to prove that wrong. But we have a lot of time to do that.”

Joel Embiid scored 28 points and James Harden added 26 points and 11 assists for the Sixers, who lost their second game in a row. They had won nine of their previous 11.

Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III and Al Horford all missed the game with injuries. Blake Griffin got the start and hit five 3-pointers for a season-high 15 points, and Grant Williams scored 15 points and added eight rebounds.

In all, the Boston bench outscored Philadelphia’s 31-21, with three other usual second-stringers contributing 49 points from the starting lineup. The Celtics made 19 of 35 from 3-point range.

“I could have made some of those 3s,” Rivers told reporters.

“Well, maybe not me. I was a poor shooter. But someone in this room could have made those 3s.”

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