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Undermanned and Weary, Sixers Fall to Celtics 108- 97

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

If you had told me that the Philadelphia 76ers would put up a competitive game on a SEGABABA against the Boston Celtics, without Joel Embiid and TJ McConnell, I’d have laughed in your face. But, somehow, some way this game wasn’t a runaway blowout. And I’ll absolutely take that.

Up against the best team in the Eastern Conference and without one of their stars, the Sixers played pretty competitive. Granted, it never felt particularly close, even for the small amount of time that the Sixers managed to grab a lead in the 3rd. The wing-heavy, perimeter oriented Celtics were a match-up problem. Add in Al “Stretch” Horford 2.0 and the impossible-to-cover Kyrie Irving, and the Sixers had their hands full trying to stymie Boston’s offense as they struggled to put together runs of their own.

Turnovers killed both teams and was probably a big reason why the game was still so close, so late. It’s been the achilles heel for the 76ers, who rank last in the NBA in the category. It’s conceivable to think that a few extra possessions could have really changed the course of the game. But an offensive foul here (HELLO MARCUS SMART FLOP!), an unforced pass out of bounds there... lost possessions are hard to recoup, especially against the best team in the conference.

Ben Simmons had a stat-stuffing game, highlighted by a wicked and effortless reverse slam. Coming off the Hack-a-fest (3-4 from the line tonight!) and without his behemoth running mate, it was all on him to be the engine to the team. While he had relative success, Boston threw quite a few big and lengthy defenders at him to discourage him from just being a freight train to the basket. 7 assists to 5 turnovers isn’t great, either. However, it’s hard to ask the rookie to do much more than he has.

But seriously, how great was this?

The boxscores probably paint a different picture, but I thought Dario Saric had a good night. It’s been interesting to watch Saric carve out a role in this team. At times he looks out of place or out of the flow. But recently he’s been crashing towards the basket hard on both ends of the court. Whether it be trying to dive to the basket or fight for rebounds, Dario’s doing a lot of dirty work in the paint. This is where he shined last year in the 2nd half. Where he eventually ends up, long-term, I do not know. For now, he’s doing exactly what the team needs.

So the 76ers tried to muck up this game and somehow steal one despite being undermanned. Is it a moral victory? Not really. But I suppose we can call this one a schedule loss and move on to the next one.


Odds & Ends

  • Robert Covington started off absolutely frigid going 0-7 before draining his last 3 3’s. Slumps like this happen, especially for higher volume shooters. Furthermore, this was the inevitable regression that was going to happen. Hopefully, hitting the last 3 gets him back into rhythm because the team is sorely missing his shot.
  • JJ Redick tried to pick up some of the scoring slack and while his shot beyond the arc was falling, his shot inside it wasn’t connecting. I suppose I didn’t watch enough of him (or just didn’t pay attention) but I can’t recall him shooting this off-balanced.
  • Amir Johnson deserves an ice bath tonight. It’s hard to replicate what Embiid brings to the center position, and AJ didn’t come close to it. However, he played his butt of tonight (literally, I can still hear the hardwood thuds). While he doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to really play too much against perimeter oriented teams, he plays in space well enough and has a done better job of late to play those non-Joel minutes.
  • Meanwhile, Richaun Holmes got some run tonight as well. After two quick fouls, it looked like it’d be a rough night for him. Yet, he was part of that 3rd quarter run and did a great job at collecting some tough offensive boards and put-backs. I’m not sure if or when he’ll usurp AJ because his defense still leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Jerryd Bayless had his moments and hit some big 3s to keep the Sixers in striking distance. However, I question having him in so heavily, especially towards the end, especially when you have Simmons out there to handle the ball. He’s been great in stretches but I’d favored TLC (who had a good shooting night) in crunch time, if only for his length/defense. Small quibble because ultimately I don’t think Kyrie let’s Boston lose anyway.
  • Nik Stauskas (!) got some run tonight. If you blinked, you may have not noticed because outside of 1 steal, he didn’t put up any statistic in his 9 minutes played. I get being tentative in his first game back but... wow.
  • 76ers are back at it again on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons.

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