Having already seized home-court advantage by virtue of their Game 1 win on Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers had a chance to put their second-round series in a stranglehold with another victory in Boston on Wednesday night. However, after a first half where the Sixers generally played OK but couldn’t buy a bucket from the outside in trailing by eight, the Celtics blew the game wide open with a 35-16 third quarter. The teams would empty the benches early in the fourth quarter as Boston went on to win, 121-87. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter if you lose by an inch or a mile, and the series is still 1-1 after this mile-long loss. Here are three takeaways from tonight’s monstrosity.
The Sixers need to re-embrace an underdog mentality
Following their thrilling Game 1 win and with Joel Embiid returning to action one day after officially winning MVP, the Sixers lost their edge in Game 2. The Celtics were clearly the hungrier team, which makes sense, as going down 0-2 heading back to Philadelphia would be a precarious spot. But the Sixers went completely in the other direction. You saw Tyrese Maxey jogging after a defensive rebound, only for the Celtics to grab the loose ball and end up with a three on the possession. Tobias Harris declined to box out on a long rebound for Boston to get, you guessed it, another three from a second-chance opportunity. Maxey made a lackadaisical pass on an in-bounds for Boston to steal it and get another bucket as things spiraled out of control for Philadelphia.
Guys, Boston is objectively the better team. They won 57 games and entered this series as significant favorites. You need to take the court with a fire lit under you every time out if you want a chance of winning. Don the dog masks for Game 3 and let’s get back to the “Nobody believed in us” mentality where Philadelphia sports teams thrive.
Joel Embiid’s knee looked alright
Embiid had some rust after missing a pair of games and not playing in about two weeks, with some ill-timed passes and an awkward turnover or two, but he was still a hugely impactful rim protector. I love when Joel decides to take a step back in the offensive scheme, he can shift his energy to being the best defensive player in the world. The knee didn’t look to be bothering the big man as he racked up five blocks in the first half alone, including a wildly impressive stuff of a Jaylen Brown dunk attempt. If nothing else, tonight’s blowout allowed Joel to shake out the cobwebs and Sixers supporters can feel confident about his availability moving forward in this series.
for your halftime viewing pleasure: all 5 of @JoelEmbiid's blocks. pic.twitter.com/jdTmPatpdl— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) May 4, 2023
Philadelphia needs more from the supporting cast
While Boston was getting a combined 10 threes from Malcolm Brogdon and Grant Williams, the Sixers’ supporting cast aside from Paul Reed was on a milk carton in Game 2. P.J. Tucker, my guy, they’re giving you 10 feet of space. You need to shoot those corner threes when you’re wide open or the paint is going to be more congested than the Schuylkill at rush hour. De’Anthony Melton is notoriously streaky, so I’m not surprised he regressed after hitting five threes in the first half of Game 1, but I’d prefer if he didn’t airball open threes. Jalen McDaniels is the Office Space “What would you say you do here?” meme through two games of this series. And Georges Niang, our sweet Minivan. Everyone has been saying for months Niang shouldn’t play in a playoff series against Boston, and we saw him inexplicably pass up an open three, try to drive and get blocked, leading to a three for the Celtics on the other end with the first half winding down. Role players generally do play better at home, so we’ll possibly have that to look forward to this weekend. Maybe some non-garbage time Shake minutes on Friday, Doc?