Philadelphia caught a break with yesterday’s news that Celtics starter Gordon Hayward will miss four weeks with a Grade 3 right ankle sprain. But Hayward or no Hayward, the Sixers need to improve upon their performance from Monday night’s 109-101 Game 1 defeat if they hope to knot this best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
The biggest concern is slowing down Boston’s star wing duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Based upon what transpired in Game 1, Matisse Thybulle should draw the primary assignment against Tatum. We’ll see if Brett Brown opts to shift Thybulle into the starting lineup tonight, but it’s imperative Matisse duplicates his efforts from Monday, when he defended without fouling and did just enough offensively to not be a negative on that side of the court. It’s a tall task for a rookie, to be sure. I would prefer Josh Richardson mark Kemba Walker, which would likely leave Tobias Harris to contend with Brown, with Shake Milton on Marcus Smart if Brad Stevens moves him into the starting lineup. We’ll see what arrangements the Sixers try out tonight.
Philadelphia’s other issues revolved around turnovers and the team’s abysmal offense late in the fourth quarter. Turnovers have long been a problem, and the art of making a simple entry pass seems to have eluded the Sixers in the Orlando bubble. In Game 1, the Celtics did a good job mixing up when they would simply stunt and when they would aggressively double the post. Both Joel Embiid and Al Horford have to do a better job analyzing those situations and limit the giveaways.
Speaking of Embiid, he said after Game 1 that he needs to be more aggressive. Following a dominant opening quarter Monday, Joel was fairly quiet the rest of the game, particularly in the fourth quarter. The big man received just one touch inside the arc during the final six minutes of the game, an unacceptable scenario, with blame falling on the Sixers ball handlers just as much as, if not more than, Joel. Embiid crushing Boston’s interior defenders is the only surefire advantage the Sixers hold offensively. They have to exploit it early and often if they’re to even this series.
48 solid minutes of basketball and it’s back to anybody’s series. Let’s find out if the Sixers have it in them tonight.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics, Game 2
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL (The Bubble)
When: 6:30pm ET
Watch: TNT, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic