After a remarkable game one victory, the Sixers went back into TD Garden looking to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. This time though, they had the newly crowned NBA MVP, Joel Embiid. The outcome was far from what any Sixers fan hoped.
Joel Embiid’s return didn’t pan out as hoped
When Joel Eembiid stepped on the court, his leg sleeve covered his knee brace. The device appeared to be effective, as he was mobile enough to contest shots. He only attempted nine himself, but his knee appeared strong enough to drive past defenders, like he did on Al Horford for a thunderous dunk. His presence was inspiring to fans, but it was not enough to help his team thwart Jaylen Brown and key Celtic role players.
Brown, who ended up with 25 points, was unstoppable in the first half. His ability to finish anywhere on the floor made life hard for any Sixers defenders all night. His running mate, Jayson Tatum, was not as effective as he was in game one. He did not need to be in game two because players like Malcolm Brogdon, Marcus Smart, and Derrick White stepped up and made contributions that were lacking in game one.
James Harden put on a spectacular display of offensive moves that had every sports network buzzing, bringing back memories of Houston Harden. In this game though, he seemed shackled by Boston’s swarming defense. Several shots literally went down and out for him, which was indicative of how the night would go for Philly.
Sixers struggled to keep pace
Collectively, the entire Sixers team struggled beyond the arc, shooting 20 percent (6-20). Some of those shots came in garbage time, when both teams emptied their bench.
Unfortunately, De’Anthony Melton could not replicate his stellar performance from game one, and Jalen McDaniels continued his struggles on the offensive side of the ball. Traded for Matisse Thybulle before the deadline, McDaniels was promoted as a player with multiple skill sets and length to bother opposing wing players. Against Boston, he appeared lost and unable to find ways to contribute.
Paul Reed, the unsung Sixers hero of the first game, brought his same energy and tenacity. He put up six points and grabbed eight boards in 16 minutes. His block in the first half led to a fast break and Harden layup, giving Philly a needed spark. His behind-the-back pass to De’Anthony Melton was as impressive as it was surprising. Still, it was not enough to prevent Boston from pulling away.
Tyrese Maxey had spurts of offense, but on the night he was inefficient, going 6-14 from the field and was met at the rim several times by Al Horford.
Although Horford struggled offensively, he did impact the game defensively. As a team, what he was unable to deliver from the 3-point line was supplemented by Grant Williams and Malcolm Brogdon. The two combined 10-18 from beyond the arc. Their barrage of perimeter shots were slow cuts that enabled Boston to pull away and turn Doc Rivers’ defensive plan into a walking corpse.
By the time the fourth quarter came, the Sixers were in such a deficit that even Shake Milton, Danuel House, Jaden Springer, and Furkan Korkmaz got minutes.
If a lesson was learned from the blowout loss to Boston, a new strategy or better effort must be implemented for game three, which is Friday night.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa