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Recap: Celtics 107, 76ers 106

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That was definitely a basketball game.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Well, I’m sure nobody saw that one coming.

On the second night of a back-to-back that kicked off with an embarrassing loss to the Magic, the Sixers had no business hanging around in this one. The Celtics may have faced the latter portion of a road back-to-back of its own, but still should have skated by a Sixers team lacking its two best (active) defensive players in Joel Embiid and Robert Covington.

But the collective energy that went missing against Orlando Friday night finally showed up against Boston. All active Sixers scored with — six netting double-figures —and the Embiid-less defense looked surprisingly competent even as Boston’s pass-heavy offensive attack pinged the ball around the court.

But the savior of the night was clearly Dario Saric. As the team (expectedly) watched its halftime lead trickle away in the third, The Homie kept the Sixers above water as he played more confidently than we’ve seen from him in weeks. Not only has Dario only nailed only a quarter of his shots through his last six games (h/t Derek), but his spry and relentless game we’ve come to love in Europe seemed to tighten up as of late. Even in the first half of this game, he seemed hesitant to push the ball in transition or create for himself even on a night where the team needed it most.

Not to play armchair (couch?) psychologist, but Saric seemed to come to life after effectively ending Jonas Jerebko’s life here. He started flinging those flashy, if not sometimes ambitious passes again, rebounded his brains out, and even called for the ball down low on the game-tying play with a minute left.

Now we shouldn’t expect 21-12-2 outings from Dario for the rest of year, but these are the kind of nights the Sixers will need of him until Ben Simmons returns. Especially when one-third of the freaking team is injured and he becomes the de facto best player. Now, some notes:

Some Bad Things That Happened

  • Boy, was Robert Covington’s defensive presence missed on the perimeter. Although the Sixers did a relatively nice job locking down the league’s ninth-best offense, the point guards got smoked by Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley for a combined 57 points. A bunch of hoopla has been made over the last few days over the speculation of Ben Simmons defending point guards, (and, for the record, he shouldn’t — he’s damn-near seven feet tall and is a monster on the boards) but he’d sure be an upgrade over the glorified doormats that are Sergio Rodriguez and T.J. McConnell.
  • I’ll admit I often become frustrated with Brett’s insistence on sticking Richaun Holmes in the doghouse when [REDACTED] can be equally deserving at times, but you could see why he’s there tonight. He was dreadful on both ends in just 10 minutes , leading to Brett playing Okafor 33 minutes and sometimes even omitting a true center from his lineups. The tools are still there for Holmes, but he has miles to go in terms of awareness.
  • With just 10 on the roster tonight, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot got some real-life first-half minutes tonight. Let’s use this opportunity to dub him the new Bruno Cobocolo — who Fran Fraschilla infamously referred to as “two years away from being two years away” at the 2014 Draft — as TLC has a looooong way to go. The athleticism and energy is already extremely apparent, but he got absolutely smacked by every screen he tried to navigate through and still has no idea what to do with the ball in his hands.

Some Good Things That Happened

  • We’d be remiss to not mention that Okafor has now posted good-to-great outings on back-to-back nights — especially encouraging following that ghastly 2-and-1 outing against Memphis a few games back. He thoroughly outplayed Horford on the offensive end, and handled what would typically be a nightmare defensive matchup against Boston as well as you could expect.
  • Knowing Jah might’ve been eaten alive by Boston’s pick-and-pop threats scattered through its frontcourt, Coach Brown seemed to call for more switches to make life easier on Okafor — this was the right move when it was used, as Jah seemed to hold his own taking Boston’s guards and none of the Celtics bigs are exactly post-up threats. Good to see Brett calling for these micromanagements that end up going a long way.
  • The Sixers didn’t get absolutely creamed on a night where it had every reason to. Progress!