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NBA roundup: Celtics, 76ers hold off late rallies for Christmas wins

Jaylen Brown scored 30 points, Kemba Walker had 22 and the Boston Celtics beat the 118-102 in Toronto on Wednesday in the first Christmas Day NBA game played in Canada.

Enes Kanter had 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Celtics snapped an eight-game losing streak north of the border and became the first Atlantic Division opponent to win in Toronto in more than four years.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward returned to the starting lineup after missing the past three games because of a sore left foot. He scored 14 points in 26 minutes.

Fred VanVleet scored 27 points in the Raptors’ second straight loss, and Chris Boucher had a career-high 24.

Toronto had gone an NBA-record 34 games between home losses to division foes. The Raptors’ last home loss to an Atlantic team was a 111-109 defeat to the New York Knicks on Nov. 10, 2015.

Kyle Lowry scored 14 points and Serge Ibaka had 12 for Toronto. The Raptors shot eight for 23 from three-point range.

Kanter arrived dressed in a black t-shirt that read `Freedom for ALL’ in white letters. He played outside the United States for the first time since visiting Toronto with the Knicks on Nov. 10, 2018.

Kanter’s outspoken criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government led to his passport being revoked in 2017. Turkish prosecutors have accused Kanter of membership in a terror organization and issued an international warrant for his arrest.

Kanter did not travel with the Knicks to London last January because he feared he could be killed over his opposition to Erdogan. After being traded to Portland in February, he did not join the Trail Blazers for their March 1 game at Toronto.

The Raptors jumped out to a 10-0 lead as the Celtics missed their first five shots of the game, leading to a Boston timeout with 10:03 left in the opening quarter. After the stoppage, the Celtics outscored Toronto 28-9 to lead 28-19 after one.

Brown made all five of his field goal attempts in the third, including three from long range, and scored 16 points. Boston led 88-69 through three quarters.

at Philadelphia 121, Milwaukee 109: Joel Embiid outplayed Giannis Antetokounmpo in Philadelphia’s first home Christmas game in 31 years, collecting 31 points and 11 rebounds to help the three-point happy 76ers beat the Bucks.

Tobia Harris sank five three-pointers, Josh Richardson and Furkan Korkmaz each had four and even Embiid hit three as part of Philly’s season-high 21 3s (on 44 attempts) against a Bucks team that had the best record in the NBA.

Harris and Al Horford made threes over the final 90 seconds to push back a late Bucks’ run, and the Sixers improved to 16-2 at home.

There was a charged atmosphere for the anticipated matchup featuring Embiid and Ben Simmons taking on Khris Middleton and Antetokounmpo. Fans dressed as elves, wore ugly sweaters and held signs that said all they wanted for Christmas was a 76ers win.

They got it, with Embiid using the national showcase to play like an MVP in a dominant first half that helped the Sixers take the biggest halftime lead (21 points) against the Bucks under coach Mike Budenholzer.

Embiid scored 23 points and was disruptive defensively, holding Antetokounmpo to four-for-14 shooting in the half. The Sixers made 11 three-pointers in the half and made the NBA-best Bucks (27-5) look like anything but Eastern Conference contenders. Embiid stood firm under the basket, arms extended sky high on one Antetokounmpo drive in transition. Embiid absorbed the contact and the “Greek Freak” lost control of the ball, one of six Milwaukee turnovers at the break.

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