Ben Simmons stars for Sixers at centre

Matt Encarnacion
Ben Simmons was the blowtorch and the bullet in Philadelphia's statement win over Boston on Friday

It's hard to replace a player like Joel Embiid.

But Philadelphia coach Brett Brown might have figured out how they'll survive without him after recording a statement 109-98 win over Boston on Thursday.

Less than a day after revealing Embiid would miss at least two weeks due to finger surgery, the 76ers turned to Ben Simmons and Al Horford to fill the void.

Horford starter at centre, but it was the surprise move of deploying Simmons at the five-spot that helped get the job done without their star big man.

"We're going to miss Joel for however long it is. But tonight was a good start," Simmons, the team's starting point guard, said after the win.

Simmons finished with 19 points, nine boards and three assists, in a team-high 38 minutes, which included drawing a foul on Enes Kanter in the first quarter.

He also came up with some key plays in the decisive final quarter.

Brown admitted he would have to re-configure his team's style without Embiid, who is averaging 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds this season.

Josh Richardson led the team with 29 points against the Celtics, who sit third in the eastern conference and have now dropped three straight.

"I'm putting a blowtorch, a bullet, many bullets into what we used to do. Really," Brown said.

"It doesn't fit. So it's on me to make it fit. We don't have Joel Embiid. So when I say, 'blowtorch and bullet', I mean it."

Of Simmons' time at centre, Brown said: "I've always been curious of what that could look like. I thought he was good.

"I don't know what the numbers bear out, but it's something we have tried. I have wanted to try Ben at five, we did, and I suspect we'll see it again."

In other games on Thursday, Kevin Love nailed the go-ahead triple with 37.9 seconds left in overtime to lead Cleveland to a 115-112 win over Detroit.

The victory snaps a five-game losing streak and comes after coach John Beilein said he'd apologised for comments made during a film session on Wednesday.

ESPN had reported Beilein suggested his players were no longer playing "like a bunch of thugs". Beilein said he meant to say "slugs".

Elsewhere, Andrew Wiggins scored 23 points in Minnesota's 116-102 victory over Portland despite being without injured big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

Russell Westbrook also had an unhappy homecoming to Oklahoma City, who routed Houston 113-92 despite scoring a team-high 34 points.