Playoff basketball finally returned and it was the Sixers first tournament game since the infamous Kawhi Leonard quadruple doinker. This time matched up against their archival Celts. The Sixers had some chances to win this one but in the end they (stop me if you’ve heard this one) didn’t quite have the fire power to help their superstar Joel Embiid carry it home. We knew things were going to be a big challenge on the defensive end, with All-Pro defender Ben Simmons out of commission. But allowing 80 combined points for Jayson Tatum (32), Jaylen Brown (29) and Kemba Walker (19) still isn’t going to cut it.
Joel Embiid did his part. He had 26 points on just 15 shots, 16 rebounds, a block and a couple steals in 37 minutes. Having shot 8-15 from the floor, it appeared that he might have left a few bullets in the chamber as well. There were a few possessions you wondered why the big man wasn’t getting more low-post touches, especially from the left block where he was dominating. Both Tobias Harris (6-15) and Alec Burks (8-15) took as many field goal attempts as Embiid.
Now of course, Embiid has to anchor and quarterback the defense as well. So it would make some sense if he needed to take a breather on occasion. Still, it seemed he might have drawn a few more fouls on Boston’s front court (and saved the Sixers from making awful turnovers) had they posted him up a bit more.
Speaking of the turnovers....The Sixers had 18 turnovers in the game. They were able to improve there in the second half, but the giveaways were a major problem in the first half. Their lack of primary-ball handlers was on full display, especially when compared to Boston who has so many. The other interesting thing was that Boston got 16 offensive rebounds. They’re a very small team. So they struggle on the glass, but they were able to generate plenty of second chances in this one.
Josh Richardson contributed with 18 points, and some hard-nose perimeter defense. Matisse Thybulle did about as good of a job as one could have expected defensively as well, limiting Tatum when he was his primary defender.
It just wasn’t enough.
While Philadelphia won the points in the paint game 46-36, they lost the fast break points contest, mostly because of the 21 points off turnovers they handed green.
It’s hard to watch this series and not remember that the 76ers once had the third pick in the 2017 draft, which was eventually used by the Celtics to select Tatum. I know Ben Simmons is missing here. But losing this series will still cast an ugly light on the difference between each franchise’s front office and the way the two teams have been built over the last 3 or 4 years. The Celts have a major edge there and that’s the difference.