I’m going to start this post game by paraphrasing one of my favorite orators, Mr. Paul Heyman:
Coming into tonight’s game, the Celtics were one of three teams (the Sixers and Miami Heat being the other two) with undefeated records on their home floor. The Sixers were winners of three straight, and Boston was coming home from a loss to the Indiana Pacers.
It was more emotional with the added element of Al Horford’s return to Boston. Horford was a late scratch before the game started, but the tribute went just as you would expect: full of cheers and appreciation. Ok, there was one idiot:
There’s always one.
Prior to tonight’s game, NBA on TNT commentators Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley challenged Joel Embiid to “not just be a good player, be a great player”.
Message received, I guess.
Embiid scored 38 points, pulled down 13 rebounds, and dished six assists. He was simply dominant against a Celtics team that had their own answers after being humiliated at the Wells Fargo Center on opening night.
Kemba Walker, in particular, had a much better game against the Sixers this time around. Walker had 29 points off 21 shots hitting five three pointers. He helped the Celtics jump out to an early 34-28 lead after one quarter and continued as Boston took a three point lead into halftime.
Mike Scott was en fuego in the first half knocking down four three pointers, but the rest of the team not named “Joel Embiid” was quiet. Ben Simmons was virtually invisible against Boston (again). Josh Richardson was off. Tobias Harris wasn’t getting things to fall, but I’ll get to Tobi in a second. Being down three to the Celtics at the half despite Boston shooting 53% from the field was a gift.
Things were much different in the second half. Harris came alive with ten points in the third quarter followed by another six in the fourth to finish with 23 points. He also had eight rebounds and seven assists. Embiid continued to be a beast, and the Celtics couldn’t slow him down.
In the fourth quarter, the Celtics squeezed every bit of juice they could from Enes Kanter (ten points) and Daniel Theis (four points), but the hot shooting Walker went absolutely frigid in the second half. Walker did not have a single point in the second half until he hit free throws with 2:14 left to go in the fourth quarter.
Gordon Hayward – who almost didn’t play after taking a palm to the face against the Pacers – scored 19, but the Celtics got nothing from Jayson Tatum (15 points, 5/18 FG). He did have one ridiculous three pointer that cut the Sixers lead to one with under 40 seconds to go because that’s always how it happens against this team.
The Celtics just didn’t have enough offensively to keep up with Embiid and Harris when they finally got going, and they didn’t have anything defensively to slow Embiid down.
We’ll meet again, Boston. Same time in our building next month? Cool.