At first, it didn’t feel like it was going to go that way for the Sixers.
The first quarter of game two started out differently than game one. Rookie Matisse Thybulle got the start instead of Al Horford. Head coach Brett Brown made the switch after Celtics wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown torched the Sixers for 61 points in game one. The adjustment seemed to be paying off as the Sixers offense looked much better than it had since the restart.
Joel Embiid started off game two the same way he did game one: getting into the paint, and not settling for jump shots. The Sixers were running their offense through the big man, and everything was looking very good as Embiid had 15 in the first quarter. Thanks to the insertion of Thybulle, the Sixers defense looked better, and Jayson Tatum had two early fouls.
The Sixers led by six after the first twelve minutes, and the way the first twelve minutes went … Hey, maybe we can even this thing up at one.
Yeah, nah. That didn’t happen. The funny thing about basketball (especially with the Sixers) is that you have to play FOUR quarters. The Sixers played one.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens made an adjustment offensively to run one high pick-and-roll screen after another, and Tatum and Kemba Walker feasted on the new tactics. After being down six, the Celtics finished the first and entered the second quarter on a 13-3 run bookended by three pointers by Enes Kanter (not a typo) and Tatum to give the Celtics a 40-36 lead midway through the second.
Whatever offense the Sixers deployed was abysmal in the second stanza. The Sixers got a bucket from Raul Neto, a free throw from Embiid, and then empty possession after empty possession until about 6:55 left in the quarter when Embiid got a deuce followed by a Josh Richardson three pointer. The damage was done, already, though. Boston opened it up.
Jayson Tatum started hitting everything.
Kemba Walker started hitting everything – again thanks to the new high pick-and-rolls since Embiid always dropped back to cover the rim leaving open jumpers.
There was finally a response to the onslaught as the Sixers scored on their last eight possessions – which, thank God for that. Josh Richardson was the catalyst in the second quarter (I guess) with his ten points. Embiid got no help from anyone else – not from Tobias Harris, not from Al Horford, not even from Alec Burks (mainly because Brett Brown subbed in Neto who was -14 in nine minutes of the first half).
Boston led 65-57 at the half, so there might have been a little sliver of hope, but another Celtics run (this time 16-4) put an end to that. A Grant Williams three with 4:25 left in the third put the C’s up 20, and you could probably stick a fork in the Sixers after that.
No one was making shots.
The defense wasn’t there. (SIDE NOTE: The Sixers employed more zone to counter the high pick-and-roll, but that just left Tatum with WIDE OPEN SPACES.)
Garbage time (the entire fourth quarter) had no real positives (unless you’re a Tacko Fall fan). By then, the game was well in hand, and this virtual fan pretty much said it all:
We feel ya, buddy.
The Sixers are now down 2-0 in this series, and after this game, there’s nothing that can lead you to believe they can win this series.
Embiid finished game two with 34 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Richardson had another decent game with 18 points, but Tobias Harris and Al Horford were non-existent. Harris had 13 points on 4/15 shooting, and Horford had four points in 23 minutes.
Tatum (33), Walker (22), and Jaylen Brown (20) combined for 75 points, and they didn’t need much else as the Sixers shot 41% from the field and 24% from three. Wasn’t this team supposed to be good at defending the three? You wouldn’t know as the Celtics went 19/43 from deep.
I can’t really say anything else. Words escape me. Anger and frustration consume me.
Game three is Friday night at 6:30pm.