NEWARK, Del. — The Philadelphia 76ers figure to be one of the worst teams — if not the very worst — in the NBA this season.
With a rookie NBA head coach leading a baby-faced roster, the proud but rebuilding franchise is more likely to make the lottery than a splash of any kind.
But the very same could be said of the Celtics, which made Friday’s preseason matchup between the teams at the Bob Carpenter Center somewhat intriguing.
And though it is the preseason, the team that’s supposedly-worse-than-the-Celtics beat those very Celtics, 97-85, handing Boston its third preseason loss in as many games.
As in the Celtics’ preseason game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, there was a fourth-quarter comeback that fell short.
After trailing by as much as 18 in the first half and 14 in the final quarter, the Celtics cut the 76ers’ lead to 5 with 5:39 left.
But Boston couldn’t complete the comeback, as it didn’t when it charged back from 23 down against the Knicks before losing, 103-102.
Forward Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 19 points and 9 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley shared point guard duties to open the game but neither was too impressive. Crawford had 12 points and 3 assists and Bradley had 4 points and 2 assists.
Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes each scored 17 to lead Philadelphia. Hamilton product Michael Carter-Williams added 4 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
The 76ers led by as much as 18 in the first half and led, 54-38, heading into the locker room.
At that point, Philadelphia had big advantages in points in the paint (30-12), rebounds (33-18) and fast-break points (14-4). The Celtics, meanwhile, only had a pile of bricks, as they shot 29 percent (12 of 41) from the floor, missing 8 of 9 from 3-point range.
In the second half, the Celtics chiseled at the 76ers’ lead but were hindered by their own mistakes, whether failing to get a shot off before the shot-clock expired or getting their pockets picked by sticky-fingered Philadelphia defenders.
Friday’s loss is the first of a back-to-back set for the Celtics, who are scheduled to face the New York Knicks on Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.