By Brian Robb, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) – Nearly squandering a 26-point lead against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers is not normally a situation that would have a team speaking positively after a win. However, the Boston Celtics are not your usual NBA team.

In the midst of rebuilding this year, Boston has had more than their fair share of late game collapses over its first 50 contests. Friday night the young Celtics core ensured we would not see a repeat of that script.

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After the Sixers cut a 26-point lead to a mere three points early in the fourth quarter, the Celtics countered with authority. Marcus Thornton hit a pair of 3-pointers. Jared Sullinger wreaked havoc all over the floor with his shooting, rebounding and passing. Just like that, an 18-6 Celtics run put the hosts back up by 15 points as they finished strong with a 108-97 win.

More notably, this developing group proved they were learning from their mistakes.

“We’re kind of used to it,” Jared Sullinger said of the team blowing big leads. “We knew how to respond and we responded well. We played really well, everybody’s going to make a run. An 18-point lead doesn’t mean nothing in this league and we handled it with maturity.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Celtics coach Brad Stevens. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“We played really well early in the game,” Brad Stevens explained after the game. “They missed a couple of shots right around the rim so it was probably not as good as it looked on the scoreboard. And then we let our guard down, per se, and they played well. So that’s a killer combination, right? They made shots, they hurt us in transition, they got a couple of and-ones and aggressive plays to the rim. But then I was happy; you go through all these situations so many times in a year. I was really happy with how we responded. I thought we responded really well. I mean, we went right back up to 15 and that’s hard to do, especially when things just aren’t going your direction.”

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Boston’s response was a refreshing change of pace for a team that’s been stuck with constant roster turnover over the past couple months, including the trades of Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, among others. Stevens has settled on a rotation and starting lineup in recent weeks, with Marcus Smart at point guard, and performances like Friday show the Celtics are getting comfortable within their roles.

“We’re getting better, we’re learning, that’s a step in the right direction for us as a unit,” Jae Crowder said. “We’re trying from the coaching staff to the players we’re trying to play basketball the right way. That’s what’s gotten us these past few wins.”

Teammate Marcus Thornton was even more candid about the team’s growth, noting that he’s not sure the Celtics would have been able to pull out Friday’s game as recently as last month.

“It was great,” Thornton said of the late game surge. “We could have folded the tent when they made the run but we’ve been in the position when we’re down 20 so we know it’s kind of easy to play when you’re down 20 and those guys never quit so it shows the growth that we have on this team and we’re getting there.”

Friday’s was Boston’s third straight victory. As the wins continue, the Celtics remain within striking distance of a playoff spot in the lackluster Eastern Conference. More importantly, the young Celtics are showing maturation as they learn how to win the games they were letting slip away early in the year.

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Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.