FINAL: Boston: 112 Philadelphia: 109
Kyrie Irving was out, the Celtics were coming off a drama filled weekend, and the Sixers just put together the best starting lineup in league history according to the general public. It’s also a friendly reminder that no matter what happens in this world some things will stay constant. The sun will rise, the seasons will come and go, Max Kellerman will preach to the heavens that Brady’s hit the “cliff”, and the Celtics will have ownership over the Philadelphia 76ers. I don’t like putting controversial/NSFW content on this website but my hands are tied due to my civil duty as Game Recap Guy.
I’d also like to add in that they are 0-3 versus Boston this season. That is what we like to call: not great, poor, for the sake of simplicity… bad. The Sixers have beefed their roster up two separate times this season but they still cannot get over the hump versus the Celtics (Nor any other top Eastern Conference teams for that matter). Things didn’t change last night as the Celtics waltzed into Well Fargo Center and took care of business in one of their best wins of the season.
It was a great game from start to finish and we got a possible preview of a playoff series between these two teams. All in all, this game was about the Celtics two biggest free agent signings in team history, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. I want to start with Hayward because it was his best game of the season and something he’s been building towards since he was injured at the start of last season. He scored 26 points on 8-11 shooting and hit a career high 6 three-pointers in what was a flashback game for Hayward.
While it wasn’t his best game scoring wise this year, he hasn’t had a breakout game like this against a top team, and has struggled against the league’s best. He hasn’t been the Gordon Hayward of old this season, but last night we saw how effective he can be when he’s right. Once again, he made a point of getting himself involved early by coming off of screens looking to score. Philly had a tough time getting over screens and this equated to a plethora of open looks for Hayward that he knocked down. In 6 games in February Hayward has averaged 14/4.5/3.3 on 56.4/55.6/92.3 shooting splits in what has been a great stretch for the forward. He’s looked like a different player as of late and if this continues, the Celtics could have a makeshift deadline addition of their own as a healthy Hayward would be far more valuable than anything on the market. This stretch post All-Star break is a doozy for the Celtics and Hayward’s revival of sorts couldn’t have come at a better time.
If Hayward won best in show, Al Horford took home best supporting actor in what was a remarkable effort on both ends of the floor. He made Embiid work on defense by repeatedly going right at him on the drive. This opened up his outside game as he got some wide open looks off of pick and pop situations and just spacing out at the right times. Embiid likes to camp out down low so Horford’s ability to tire him out on defense really opened a lot of things up for the Celtic offense.
Not only did Al give Embiid fits on offense, but he had Joel in a straight jacket on defense. In 55 possessions covered by Horford, Embiid went 6-17 for 15 points and 2 turnovers as he had nothing for Horford. It seems like every single time these two matchup Al has the last laugh and last night was another example of that. While we’re on the topic of Al being Embiid’s handler, another troubling tweet popped up on my timeline this morning.
WOOF. It for sure is not a good look that your franchise cornerstone is absolutely clueless against your biggest rivals in the game. It’s such a testament to the work that Al does nightly on the defensive end and it was one of the key factors in the win last night.
Jayson Tatum was a factor last night as well scoring 20 points and hauling in 10 boards on 7-15 shooting. I also don’t want it forgotten that he put Embiid in the dryer and dropped this hammer on Fake Rookie Of The Year, and known coward, Ben Simmons.
That dunk gave the Celtics momentum after the Sixers started to get rolling the third. Not only did he have that dunk, but he hit some big shots down the stretch that led the Celtics to victory.
He’s really figured out how/when to look for his offense and has found a groove. Having Horford there to facilitate helps, but we’re witnessing Tatum take a step in his development. He’s always been a great scorer, but sometimes his shot selection has been shaky and he seemed to be a black hole at times on offense. Recently, we’ve seen him pick his spots and get shots within the flow of the offense.
After calling out his teammates Saturday night, Marcus Morris Sr. backed it up with 17 points and 8 rebounds. 8 of those points were in the first five minutes and it was evident from the jump that Mook wasn’t messing around. He filled his usual role and was automatic offense as he hit some tough shots.
I also was impressed with some of the cuts he made and the different ways he was able to get himself open. He’s been such an improved player this season and he’s built off of his success by showing us so many different parts of his game. Due to his effectiveness scoring the ball he’s been able to get guys open and made a great play to free up/find Gordon for this three late.
It’s such a little thing on the onset but by driving so aggressively to the basket he drew Simmons into the paint away from Hayward. Once Morris got into the paint he immediately kicked it out as there was nobody within 10 feet of Hayward. For someone who isn’t know for his playmaking, it was such a great pass at such an important time. While all of that was nice, most importantly, after saying that the hasn’t had fun in a long time, Mook had this to say to the media afterwards.
Oh boy, let me tell you friend, do NOT let the Celtics FUN fun.
Other than individual performances, the Celtics were on point as a team and were able to take care of the basketball. They only had 6 turnovers compared to 14 by the 76ers and this made the difference in the end. In such a close game it’s empirical to hold onto the ball and not give up possessions, especially when you’re getting out rebounded like the Celtics did (53-47 in rebounds in favor of Philly). The Celtics did just that and made an effort to make good decisions and not give the ball away.
With Kyrie Irving out last night that was a huge win for this team. They move to 36-21 on the season and passed Philadelphia as they now hold the tiebreaker for the 4th seed. Not only are they the 4th seed, but against the top 5 teams in the East they are now 7-3 and have performed against the conference’s best. While last night was important, the Celtics return home tonight for a matchup with Detroit Pistons at 7:30 PM ET in their last game before the All-Star break as they try to go into the weekend on a high note.
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