As they continue their climb up the Eastern Conference, the Sixers turned their focus to the Boston Celtics for tonight’s matchup. The Sixers continue to get healthier as they were only missing Shake Milton (back) and Danny Green (hip) in this matchup. On the Celtics end, they were without Marcus Smart as he recently entered health and safety protocols.
There are some days where this Sixers team just shows up to play and tonight was one of those nights. While it often takes Joel Embiid dragging the Sixers’ offense to hang with opposing teams, the Sixers were able to generate offense in different ways tonight. Led by an impressive effort on the defensive end, Philly got it going right from the opening tip and made it a fun game to watch.
The game was off to a sluggish start with the Celtics and Sixers trading turnovers in the first two possessions, but Philly was soon able to gain control. The Sixers made an effort to push the pace and get out on the break and were not shy about letting the three-pointers fly. A 28-4 run to end the first quarter opened things up for the Sixers, and they finished the quarter holding a lead of 32-14.
Jayson Tatum picked up two quick fouls in the first seven minutes of the game, forcing him to take a seat early and contributing to the Celtics’ offensive woes. The Celtics scored just two baskets in the final 8 minutes of the first quarter and shot just 33% from the field in the first quarter. Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 8 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds in the first period.
Even a little scrap between former teammates Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle was not enough to spark some energy into the Celtics. There were some flashes of offense off the bench from Payton Pritchard, but the Sixers’ defensive intensity proved too much to allow the Celtics to climb back into the game. The Sixers carried a 55-35 lead into halftime, which marked their largest halftime lead all season.
So much of the Celtics offense is reliant on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and this could be pinpointed as the source of the team’s struggles. Each player shot 2-10 from the field in the first half, with Brown ending with 7 points and Tatum with 5. The Sixers had three players in double figures at halftime (Embiid, Maxey, Harris), while Payton Pritchard led the Celtics in scoring with 8 points.
Matisse Thybulle was involved in a scary moment shortly into the second half as he was unable to stop his momentum and landed in an ugly fashion. Dennis Schröder was awarded a flagrant one for the subtle push on Matisse, and the most important thing was that he seemed okay and was able to stay in the game. While there is never a need to shove a touch a player while he is in the air, the speed at which Matisse was attacking the basket was a much bigger cause for the fall than the shove.
It was a terrific overall effort from Matisse Thybulle, who deserves a ton of credit for the offensive struggles of Tatum and Brown. Matisse tied his career-high with 5 steals and also added 8 points on the offensive end. He is becoming increasingly confident as a cutter and in the dunker spot and beginning to make more of a positive impact on the offensive end. Matisse left the game early with some right shoulder soreness which will be a storyline to watch moving forward.
Tyrese Maxey also tied a career-high by knocking down 5 three-pointers. Maxey ended tonight’s game second in scoring with 23 points and continues to improve his shot creation. Seth Curry and Tobias Harris each added 17 points on the night. The Sixers also took very good care of the ball in tonight’s game as they turned the ball over just 9 times. In the end, the Sixers were able to secure a 111-99 victory.
As much as there is talk surrounding trade speculation and off-court drama with the Sixers, it is refreshing to see the Celtics are even more of a mess. If you had no prior knowledge of the two teams, you likely would have guessed that it was the Celtics who were without their all-star point guard due to the stagnation in their offense.
The Celtics now fall to 21-22 on the year, and it is becoming more and more difficult not to face the reality that the team is not constructed right. Whether or not that leads to some potential movement in the trade market (*cough cough Jaylen Brown) is still to be determined.
On the Sixers’ end, this was a game that felt great to notch in the win column. This marks the midpoint of the season as the Sixers have now played 41 games and secured a record of 24-17. They currently sit in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, but the standings are tight. Entering the game just 4.5 games out of first and 2 games behind the Bucks for 4th place, the Sixers are within striking distance as they approach the second half of the season.
It was disappointing not to see Joel Embiid set the Sixers franchise record for most consecutive 30+ points as he ended with 25 points in the matchup tonight. Embiid made his presence known on the boards with 13 rebounds and also had a very effective game defensively.
It shouldn’t take a record to recognize Embiid’s greatness, and he played within the offense for the entirety of tonight’s game. To the disappointment of the Philly fans, Doc Rivers took Embiid out with 2:43 left to play, likely with tomorrow’s matchup with the Miami Heat in mind. Great win and onto tomorrow’s matchup with the Miami Heat!