Last June, the Boston Celtics advanced all the way to the NBA Finals. They did, though, come into the new season with a lot of uncertainties after a year-long suspension of their coach and the hiring of a new coach who had no prior NBA experience. The Celtics played their opening game of the season looking very much like a serious contender again despite those distractions.
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The Celtics grabbed control in the second half to pull off a 126-117 victory over a Philadelphia 76ers squad that had undergone significant roster changes over the summer. At the end of the third quarter, Boston outscored Philadelphia 35-35 to break the tie and go on to win the game. The usual suspects took the lead for Boston. In the game, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each scored 35 points. Tatum also had 12 rebounds and four assists. That pair appeared to play a game of cat and mouse with Philadelphia’s defence.
Marcus Smart, the Celtics’ current defensive player of the year, contributed 14 points and seven assists as well. Boston shot a scorching 56 percent from the field as a team.
With 35 points, seven assists, and eight rebounds to lead Philadelphia, James Harden was undoubtedly the Sixers’ most encouraging performance of the game. Rising sensation Tyrese Maxey added 21 points of his own, including nine in the fourth quarter, to Joel Embiid’s 26 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists. Tyrese Maxey was the MVP runner-up from the previous season. The output of that trio was insufficient to help the Sixers win their season opener.
Only so much can be inferred from the opening game of the year, but even without their starting centre Robert Williams, the Celtics looked quite formidable. Boston might be extremely difficult to overthrow if he is back. Philadelphia’s Sixers have obvious issues that need to be addressed, but with all of the new components they’re implementing, they shouldn’t be overly demoralised after just one game.
Here are three important lessons learned from Boston’s victory over Philadelphia to start the season.
- Brogdon’s Debut Was Encouraging
Malcolm Brogdon, who they acquired through a trade in July, was Boston’s biggest offseason acquisition after falling two wins short of hoisting a banner. The 2017 Rookie of the Year, Brogdon, made his team debut on Tuesday night, and it went quite well. For Boston, Brogdon was a substitute, yet he played 24 minutes, fourth-most on the team. He made seven of his eleven field goal attempts at that span, scoring 15 points total. In addition, he recorded two rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
It was a good output, but it didn’t fully capture the worth of what he contributed to the squad. He gave the squad an additional attacking threat and a player with the ability to develop his own offence. For the other guys, like Tatum and Brown, it made life simpler. Brogdon would make a pretty great third or fourth option on a championship team even though he isn’t built to be the team’s top option. You have to think that as the season progresses, he’ll get even more at ease playing with his new teammates, which could increase his effectiveness. Even though there has only been one game, Brogdon appears to be a good addition for Boston.
- Boston Dominated In Transition
The Sixers’ transition defence would be the one thing they could specifically blame for losing this game, and that’s why they came out on the losing end. The Sixers only managed to score two — yes, just two — fast break points themselves while allowing the Celtics to score 24 of them. When your opponent outscores you by more than 20 points in a single area, as happened on Tuesday night, it can be difficult to win the game. The Sixers will be driven out of many venues if they don’t make a [far] more serious effort moving ahead to go back on defence in transition. They may take better care of the basketball as a way to benefit themselves. Compared to Boston’s 11, the Sixers committed 14 team turnovers, and several of those errors gave the Celtics easy, uncontested transition baskets.
The Sixers need to be more proactive in creating their own offence on the break in addition to improving their transition defence. It’s ridiculous to only score two fast break points when you have the talent level of the Sixers. They have to crank up the tempo now. A nice place to start is by passing the ball more frequently to Tyrese Maxey in the backcourt.
- Embiid Had A Forgettable Evening
The final game stats for Joel Embiid are impressive: 26 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, and a block. Nevertheless, those figures are a little deceptive because Embiid’s performance was far from stellar. In my opinion, he spent too much time lining up at the elbow or floating around the court instead of establishing post position, which has become his specialty over the course of his last two MVP-calibre seasons. He is most effective when he is on the block since he can apply such intense pressure on the defence from that position. Additionally, he has become a significantly better passer out of the post when he is double-teamed, which happens virtually always.
Against the Celtics, he made just one of six long shots, but eight of twelve two-pointers and seven of nine foul shots. This is partly Embiid’s fault because he needs to do a better job of establishing himself in the position, but it is also partly a result of the scheme. The big man needs to be helped to establish himself down low early and frequently by Philadelphia. Against Boston, Embiid also committed six turnovers, which is unacceptable. Over the course of his career, he has gotten less prone to turnovers, but in this game, he handled the ball way too carelessly and loosely.