The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics met in an early clash of two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Both teams came into Wednesday’s meeting with a record of 5-1, with the Sixers looking to prove they belong in the conversations as a contender.
Philadelphia came into the game as winners of their last five games with a recent blowout win against the Washington Wizards. Meanwhile, Boston’s most recent game was a loss on the road to the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime.
Sixers/Celtics game recap
The first quarter started fast for the Sixers, who jumped out to an early eight-point lead with just minutes gone in the first quarter. The Boston Celtics then went to a new strategy against Joel Embiid, putting guard Jrue Holiday on him. They let Holiday guard him to force Embiid into hunting the mismatch and make mistakes. When he didn’t have Holiday on him, they doubled-teamed him instantly. Cold shooting and clunky offense had the Sixers down five points after the first quarter.
The second quarter showed that this was a game of runs, with the Sixers matching the Celtics’ early run with one of their own. It started with Maxey, Harris, and the bench unit helping get the home team back in the game. Paul Reed, affectionally known as Bball Paul, had great energy to start the quarter and was an important piece in getting them back in the game. They continued the push throughout the second quarter leading to a 39-point quarter and a halftime lead.
The second half started clunky, like the first quarter for both teams. The Sixers and Celtics took turns shooting flankers early on, but Embiid got the offense going for his team. While Boston’s stars struggled offensively, Derrick White and Sam Houser kept the game within reach, hitting timely threes. Late in the quarter Nick Nurse went to his “defensive” lineup, playing Joel Embiid with Tatum, Beverley, Batum, and Covington to build a lead.
Philadelphia took control of the fourth quarter and built up a 15-point lead with just under four minutes to go, and then madness ensued. The Celtics went on a 16-4 run to give them a chance to tie with a three with eight seconds to go. Boston’s Kristaps Porzingis missed the game-tying shot, and Philly corralled the rebound and staved off a furious comeback, winning 106-103.
The Sixers were led by Joel Embiid (27 points, ten rebounds, and four assists) and Tyrese Maxey (25 points, nine rebounds, and five assists). Kristaps Porzingis (29 points) and Derrick White (19 points) led the way for Boston.
Rising star- Maxey steps up
Tyrese Maxey was not as aggressive the past few games, and his head coach even stressed that he was too good not to be aggressive. Early on in this one, he tried to set teammates up and waited to see how the Celtics would play him.
Once he figured out how he would be defended, he went off. He didn’t shoot the ball that well, hitting only 11 of his 27 shots, but his play kept pressure on the rim and Boston. He had a couple of zip passes to the corner on drives, but the shots didn’t fall. Even Maxey making that play, shows growth in his passing vision. Maxey is an emerging star, but he will still have up-and-down games. Even if he has a bad shooting night, he is good enough to make an impact on the game.
Bevy of wings
In past matchups with Boston, the Sixers always struggled with their two-star wings, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They haven’t had the two-way wing players of their own to guard those players. In this matchup, they showed the capability to have a number of guys play against them.
The Sixers used Tobias Harris, Kelly Oubre Jr., Robert Covington, and Nicolas Batum. There were even stretches of the scrappy Pat Beverley guarding either Brown or Tatum. The depth they have really showed tonight, and it was something that this team hasn’t had in a long while. That lack of wing depth has burned Philadelphia against Boston for years, but it looks like that’s in the past now.
After trailing in the first quarter, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse made some adjustments to slow down the star players of the Celtics. He went to ball pressure and a switching scheme that didn’t allow Tatum and Brown to get going. His schemes and his team’s great defense held them to a combined 10-27 from the floor, with Brown turning the four times, some of which were momentum killers for Boston. Nurse also kept his wing defenders fresh with frequent substituting to continue to give different looks and encourage hard play.
The Sixers will head to Detroit to face the Pistons on Friday night for their first game in group play for the NBA’s In-season tournament. You can catch the action at 7:00 PM EST on NBC Sports Philadelphia.