Boston Celtics go up 2-0 via blowout win over Philadelphia 76ers

Boston Celtics (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images) /

In a normal year, the Boston Celtics would have just claimed their home-court advantage with a second consecutive win over Philadelphia. In the bubble, they look like a flat out better team than the 76ers.

On Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers by a score of 128-101, taking a 2-0 series lead in dominating fashion. The Celtics got off to a slow start and found themselves down by double digits early, but fought back and outscored their opponents in the final three quarters.

Jayson Tatum had another playoff career-high, scoring 33 points after finishing with 32 in game 1. He was extremely efficient, shooting 12/20 from the field and 8/12 from downtown. The third-year star also had 5 rebounds and 5 assists to go along with a great effort on the defensive end. Tatum is picking up where he left off before the NBA season was halted, scoring at will in both isolation and at the rim.

Without Ben Simmons, Philadelphia has a limited number of options they can use to defend Tatum. Experienced defender Josh Richardson is a bit too small, while Tobias Harris is too slow to contend with Jayson’s quickness to the hoop. Therefore, coach Brett Brown called on rookie Matisse Thybulle to attempt to guard the rising star.

He did somewhat admirably, and to boot, Thybulle is a fantastic young defensive player, but when Tatum is making difficult shots, there’s not much you can do to stop it. Additionally, when starting Thybulle, the 76ers are limiting their shooting and overall offensive production, as the rookie averaged less than five points on the year.

Kemba Walker had one of his best games in the bubble, scoring 22 points on 50 percent shooting. He took advantage of Philadelphia’s lackluster pick and roll defense, taking pull-up 3-pointers off of well-set screens from Boston’s big men. If they step up too far to try and deny the 3-point attempt, Walker has the quickness to blow by the defender and get an easy layup. When the UConn product is playing to his all-star level, the Celtics are hard to stop.

Jaylen Brown continued his ascent in the bubble, recording 20 points on 6/13 from the field. In the extended absence of Gordon Hayward, Brown will likely get more opportunities to score in the Boston Celtics’ offense. He had room to capitalize more on his open looks, as he only shot 2/7 from beyond the arc, but he’s proven himself to be a consistently above average shooter, with the ability to create his own shot as well.

Coach Brad Stevens dug deeper into his bench without Hayward being available, as Brad Wanamaker, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, and Enes Kanter all played more than 20 minutes. The two rookies, Langford and Williams, held their own in playoff basketball, something not many thought they would be able to do.

Langford shot 2/5 from the field for six points, but ended up with a plus/minus of +26. Stevens went to the lineup of these four bench players along with Tatum, finding great success on both ends of the floor. Romeo specifically has proved himself as a capable defender and offensive playmaker, helping to fill the void left by Hayward.

Grant Williams, although he got in foul trouble, was able to knock down his 3-point shot, the main question in his game. In the playoffs, if he’s able to make opposing teams guard him beyond the arc, he will be a valuable bench piece, as he is an extremely versatile defender. This game, he was able to do that, likely earning him more playing time for the rest of the series. He wound up with nine points and knocked down both of his 3-point attempts.

Many fans like to criticize Brad Wanamaker, sometimes rightfully so, but in the bubble, he’s been everything the Celtics fans could’ve asked for. Shooting perfect from the field for seven points, to go along with four assists, two rebounds, and three blocks, Wanamaker ended with a +28 in 23 minutes of action. All the Boston Celtics need is stable backup point guard minutes when Kemba is off the floor, and that’s exactly what they’re getting.

Enes Kanter saw extended action for the first time in a while, finishing with 10 points and 9 rebounds in 22 minutes. With Daniel Theis getting the start, superstar Joel Embiid scored 15 points in the first quarter, mostly against the German center. Obviously a bad matchup due to the height difference, coach Stevens gave Kanter a more prominent role in the rotation. Although he’s notoriously a bad defender, Enes is an alright defender in post defense, most of what Embiid likes to do.

Thus, he was able to stand his own in the post, limiting him to only 19 points in the final three quarters. On the offensive side of the ball, he grabbed four offensive rebounds, creating many second-chance opportunities that the Boston Celtics cashed in on.

For the 76ers, they only shot 5/21 (24%) from downtown compared to Boston’s 19/43 (44%). With Philadelphia’s offense so reliant on Embiid, they need their shooters to be threatening from deep, as he’ll likely draw double teams whenever he catches the ball in the post…but five makes on only 21 attempts just doesn’t get the job done. However, they did improve their handling off the ball, cutting their turnovers in half from Game 1 (9).

As for individual play, Joel scored 34 points on 11/21 from the field and 12/13 from the line. That may seem like a great game – and it is – but if the Boston Celtics can limit the other aspects of their offense, they’ll let Embiid have that game any day of the week. As for his supporting cast, Josh Richardson had 18, while Shake Milton and Tobias Harris had 14 and 13, respectively.

The Boston Celtics have to be happy with this performance, taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the first round of the playoffs. They’re clicking at the right time, preparing to make a run at banner 18.

But they need to finish off Philly first.

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