The Celtics were never competitive against the 76ers on Tuesday, falling 106-96 against Philadelphia when Joel Embiid dominated once again.
This is what happened.
The Celtics held on hard in the first quarter, but lost control of the rope in the second. The Sixers’ lead shot up to 15 in a 22-3 run in the second, and they extended it to 21 in the third quarter. The Celtics never closed the gap to less than 12 and never threatened again, as the Sixers snapped a two-game winning streak.
Joel Embiid: 35 points, 9 of 19 shots, 16 of 20 in FT
The Celtics spent the entire game trying to find a way to stop Embiid. Rob Williams fouled. Luke Kornet was promising but ultimately failed. Brad Stevens’ final solution was Tacko Fall (which we’ll get to), but the Celtics just don’t have anything for an MVP candidate in their division, which is tough going forward.
Frankly, we already knew most of what we saw on Tuesday. The Celtics can’t do anything for Embiid. That fact, combined with the Sixers’ defense, makes Philadelphia a nightmare matchup, especially for a Celtics team prone to long bad spells where they stagnate on both ends. The Sixers are contenders in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics don’t really look like it.
Having Fournier could have made the game more interesting as it complicates what the Sixers are trying to do defensively, but until the Celtics can sort out the Philadelphia defense and at least get Embiid to work for his points, it’s not. likely to be competitive.
To carry out
1. The most interesting part of the night was when Tacko Fall entered the game to face Joel Embiid in the second quarter. Embiid had spent the past 15 minutes abusing any great man the Celtics threw at him, but he seemed less enthusiastic about announcing Fall, the rare player who is actually taller than him. The Celtics may want to consider what Fall can do if they face Philly in a playoff matchup, which would require a roster change.
2. Rob Williams has been spectacular in the Celtics’ starting lineup, but Tuesday’s game was always a huge challenge. Sure enough: Embiid and the Sixers fouled Williams three times in the first quarter, and Kornet quickly replaced him. Williams fouled in just under 14 minutes with six points and nine rebounds.
Williams deserves to start a lot of games, maybe all at this point, but Embiid is a system-busting superstar, and Brad Stevens admitted after the game that he expected Williams to commit a significant number of fouls.
3. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker combined for just 41 points. Tatum led all scorers with 20, which isn’t enough production on a heavyweight team that didn’t have the scoring hit he added on the deadline. The Philadelphia defense is willing to concede jump shots, which are not a particularly efficient type of offense.
The Celtics desperately need Kemba Walker to be a star against the Sixers. His style of play, at best, is tailor-made to beat Philadelphia (he scored 60 against the Sixers in 2018-19), but his lack of production has been painful.
4. The Celtics finished with 20 total turnovers, including three from Williams, Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as a staggering six from Marcus Smart.
Brad Stevens believed that turnovers were a combination of great defense and mental errors.
“I thought we were loose with the ball in some of them, and in some of them they did great rotations,” Stevens said. “We will go back and you will be able to discern which ones I am talking about. We were lazy with the passes, we risked too much, we risked too much and we backfired. “
5. The Sixers went to the free throw line 39 times to 18. Stevens noted how physical Embiid (20 attempts) and Ben Simmons (eight) are, but said Tatum and Brown are doing what they can. Embiid is just a different type of player.
“I don’t think we’ll get to the point where we match those guys’ free throw attempts,” Stevens said.
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