The Sixers dropped the opening game of their rivalry playoff matchup against Miami, but first blood doesn’t always win the war. Here’s how Philadelphia can level the playing field in game two.
This one’s a no-brainer, but when the Celtics are draining 17-35 from beyond the arc, something has to change. Terry Rozier dropped 29 on the Sixers in game one of the rivalry enriching series and while Philly did a great job of forcing Boston to take those high-risk shots, it was a night where even Aron Baynes found his stroke. The Celtics may not be as damaging from range in game 2, but there are adjustments to be made.
For instance, J.J Redick was marked up against rookie Jayson Tatum…a matchup that ended absolutely horrifically, with the small forward amassing 28 points and running rings around the veteran sharpshooter. Perhaps someone like Justin Anderson, who has some more length to his frame could help stop the bleeding, but isolating Taytum on Redick should be a big no-no moving forward.
Eight players scored a three-pointer for Boston in game one…proving this was much more than just one or two breakout games. The Sixers have to do a better job of staying disciplined and not letting the leftover fear of penalties by the minute plague them when trying to stop a hard-drive to the basket. Miami exuded a very different playing style from Philadelphia.
This is a new team playing with a very different dynamic having lost Kyrie and Hayward and the Sixers would be wise to play their regular game, without the fear of getting into penalty trouble. Embiid would often overcompensate defensively to try and stop the carnage, only for a wide open three to open. Players were all too quick in leaving their assignments which opened the gateway to trouble. This time, they should simply trust the process.
Finding safety cushions:
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid did everything asked of them in game one. ‘The Process’ hammered home 31 points while Simmons scored 18 to go with his 6 assists and 7 boards. The duo are easily the biggest offensive threats that Philadelphia has and marginalizing them will be the philosophy from Brad Stevens. Talking with him back in February at the NBA London game, Stevens seemed more than aware of just how lethal the pair are becoming.
“Simmons looks more and more comfortable every time he plays.” The Celtics Head Coach told me. “I think his ability to put pressure on the defense, scoring the ball, is going to get better and better. Obviously Embiid didn’t play against us the second time, played against us the first but he’s just had games that make you shake your head.”
In comparison to the Celtics, the Sixers hit just 5 of their 26 three-point attempts. It wasn’t for the want of trying, but the heavy lifting was left to Redick, Simmons and Embiid. Getting someone like Dario Saric involved, (who can as we know, cause problems for any team having averaged 16.6 points per game in his first postseason series), is absolutely pivotal in game two. The Sixers need a release valve, an eject button. A lifejacket in the case of another disaster. That’s what someone such as Saric or even Ilyasova has to be moving forward.
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Force Embiid into the matchup:
If the Celtics insist on playing small, it’s time to go big. Embiid played 35 minutes in the opening game of the series and while as aforementioned, he carried the weight of the team on his shoulders, the Sixers need to do a better job of getting the ball inside. If shooting threes really isn’t working, Embiid has to be the X-factor. The Celtics did a great job of spacing the floor in order to limit Embiid offensively…and he still dropped 31. Defensively, Al Horford is such a threat as a passer and shooter that drawing Embiid out of his usual spot is all too easy for the big-man, allowing the likes of Taytum to swim through.
If you’re Boston, you have to feel like the Sixers will work to get their shooters into a rhythm and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. With that in mind, Brett Brown would be wise to really push the ball to the basket. Draw free throws, have Simmons and Embiid play as aggressive as possible and demand that attention. When it returns, that’s when the deadly vipers in the grass will bite.
Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports