The Celtics suited up for the second game in 3 nights in Philadelphia as the two-game stands have become a feature early in the seasons schedule. Boston once again started with Walker and Smart in the backcourt, Jalyen Brown, Grant Williams and Tristan Thompson rounded out the frontcourt. After a disappointing finish to the game late Wednesday the Celtics were dealt a blow prior to the game with the news that Jayson Tatum would be ruled out for second game in Philly.
The focus of the postgame interviews from Wednesday loss was the inability of Boston to contain Philly bigman Joel Embiid. Embiid destroyed the Celtics enroute to 42 points, Marcus Smart’s comments directly after the game around Embiid flailing his way into 21 free throw attempts as the two hard nosed players squared off right from the tip. Embiid swung an arm in the direction of Marcus Smart’s face and a few plays later he elbowed Jaylen Brown out of position on a double team. Kemba Walker then took on Embiid behind a pretty drive to draw a foul on Embiid with a kind bounce for the and-1.
Philly was scorching hot with 9 straight makes to open the game as they raced out to a quick lead behind Seth Curry’s shooting himself to 9 quick points. Jaylen Brown paced Boston with 10 points of his own in the quarter as Embiid went to the ‘cool down’ chair adjacent the 76er bench. Rookie Payton Pritchard had to depart the game and would not return after clutching at his knee as Jaylen Brown inadvertently landed on his leg. The first quarter would end 33-25, as Boston would finish off the stronger turning around a 16 point differential.
It was slow going for Boston as the second quarter opened up, The C’s strung together some unimpressive offensive plays punctuated by a few good scrappy defensive plays. The scoreboard would dry up early in the quarter as Boston scored just 4 points in the first 6 minutes and change. Things eventually opened up behind some fast break plays from Jaylen and Kemba and the ever present irrational confidence of Marcus Smart.
Doc Rivers has Philly playing with a tenacity and level of scrap, the 76ers battled hard to get back into the game behind Embiid’s 16 point half and 12 points for Tobias Harris. To Boston’s credit they had tightened up play registering only 3 TO’s and 7 fouls and took a 52-49 lead into the half.
Brad Stevens also indicated prior to the game Kemba Walkers minutes restriction would lighten somewhat as he also started the second half. Boston also ran out the double big lineup of Theis and TT to start the second half in an effort to throw extra attention Joel Embiid’s way. It paid dividends early as Embiid showed visible signs of despondency and frustrating staying on the floor on multiple plays as Boston generated some easy looks in transition.
Boston did a good job at doubling Embiid as the war in the trenches down low began to escalated. Doc Rivers was also seen remonstrating at multiple stages in the third quarter as the calls the 76ers were getting in the first game appeared to be drying up. Tensions were heating up as Marcus Smart got whistled for tech assumably for verbiage directed toward the Refs.
With the pendulum swinging back toward the 76ers, Jaylen Brown knifed expertly into the key on the quick catch to draw both Joel Embiid’s 4th foul and a delay of game as Embiid threw the ball away in digust. Embiid would go to the bench with both benches rounded out the quarter.
Boston struggled to generate anything much at all from Grant Williams, Jeff Teague and Javonte Green as the Philly second unit comprehensively outplayed the C’s reserves. With FastPP gone for the game, the Celtics bench appeared to be stuck in second gear. Matisse Thybulle registered his second block of the game on a Kemba Walker three-point attempt, Korkmaz was hitting open looks and Dwight Howard was active for Philly as the home team opened up an eleven point lead behind a 42 point third quarter to lead 91-80.
With Boston down double digits, the Celtics would need to rally with any hope to bridge the deficit. The Celtics battled back into the quarter behind three consecutive stops and a 7-0 run. A Jaylen Brown triple, a Javonte Green breakaway authoritative transition dunk and a Marcus Smart floater in the lane got the lead back to 5. Semi Ojeleye showed presence of mind to keep his hands down and not foul Danny Green behind the three-point arc.
With JB propelling Boston forward, the Celtics second leading scoring assumed the mantle of alpha with a straight away triple to lodge his 39th point of the game. However the Celtics as in the first game showed a lack of execution, critically Marcus Smart telegraphed a lackidasical pass to JB which was scooped up by Ben Simmons who took the ball the length of the court dunk and log an 8 point lead. A Tobias Harris triple was the nail in the coffin for Boston as the Celtics ran out of steam and time trying to overcome too wide a point differential.
In similar circumstances to Wednesday, Boston would be close late but lacked the urgency to make the critical plays when it counted. Ben Simmons who was quiet throughout the first three quarters exploded for 11 points and some key defensive plays in the 4th. Boston will hope that Jayson Tatum can return for the next game against the Cavs as they have now dropped three games straight.