The Boston Celtics mini two game win streak was abruptly halted by the Philadelphia 76ers, as they fall back under .500 with 106-96 loss tonight. The 76ers controlled the game from the second quarter on, and held a comfortable double digit lead for the entirety of the second half. While the Celtics top four players scored double digit points, only Jayson Tatum was able to hit the 20 point mark. On the other hand, Joel Embiid torched the Celtics for 35 points, and the Celtics just had no answer for the dominant big man.
The Celtics stayed right with Philadelphia in the first quarter, despite Embiid dropping 12 points in the frame. They had a balanced scoring attack, led by Jaylen Brown and his 8 points, and it looked like the game was set to be a tightly contested matchup. And then in similar fashion to how this season has gone, the Celtics fell apart in the second quarter. They lost the quarter 34-22, and went into the half down by 13. Danny Green torched the Celtics throughout the half, as he hit all five of his shots, including four threes, to complement Embiid’s scoring endeavors. The Celtics reverted back to their lazy defense and lackadaisical ball movement to bury themselves in a large deficit against one of the best teams in the league.
The third quarter looked rather similar, as the deficit ballooned all the way out to 21 points at one point. Much similar to how their recent losses have gone, the Celtics still managed to keep the deficit somewhat respectable, and went into the fourth quarter down by 15. However, there was no comeback run to be found here, as the 76ers kept the C’s to a double digit deficit for the entire quarter. The Celtics never seemed intent on making a surge this time around, as they struggled to find open looks and were forced into tough shots for the most part. Just as the C’s looked like maybe they had a run in them, the 76ers would snuff it out quickly, and demoralized Boston in the process.
This was an ugly loss for the Celtics in just about every aspect of the game. Once again they had no answer for Joel Embiid, they turned the ball over at an alarming rate (20 times), and fouled the 76ers the entire game. Rob Williams had his worse game since being the starting lineup, as he only logged 16 minutes and somehow managed to foul out. Nobody else could figure out how to guard Embiid, as he either destroyed his defender or found his way to the line. Missing Tristan Thompson certainly didn’t help, as guys like Luke Kornet and Tacko Fall aren’t suited to try to guard Embiid, and their defensive flaws were certainly exposed here.
Speaking of free throws, the free throw discrepancy in this game was just awful. Embiid single-handedly got more free throws by himself than the Celtics did as a team. It became particularly painful to watch in the fourth quarter, when Embiid seemed to get a whistle every single time he touched the ball. The Celtics don’t drive the ball to the extent other teams do, but the calls other teams get just don’t seem to be available for the Celtics, and it certainly hurt them in this one. The Celtics lost by 10 points, and the 76ers had 21 more free throws taken than the Celtics. Those are free points that the Celtics aren’t getting that other teams are. Whether it be due to the Celtics or the officials, something has to change in this department.
As for other offensive struggles, the Celtics had more turnovers than assists tonight. Typically you won’t win games when that happens, and the Celtics overall offensive sloppiness killed them in this one. Too often a wayward pass resulted in easy points on the other end for Philly, and it killed their offensive momentum. Tough shots were being taken early in the shot clock again tonight, which is tough to watch, especially after two games where it felt like the C’s were finding their offensive footing. Credit goes to Philly for some solid defense, but the Celtics have enough offensive talent to be scoring at a higher rate than they did tonight.
This game felt like an admission that the Celtics just aren’t on the same level as teams at the top of the Eastern Conference like the 76ers. Yes they were missing a couple of key pieces, but this team can’t seem to find any sort of rhythm that would put them on level pegging with those top teams. There’s not enough depth after the starting lineup, and over the course of a full 48 minute game, teams gradually find ways to exploit that lack of depth. The Celtics were swept on the season series by Philly 3-0, and if the season were to end today, the C’s would be in line for an opening round series with the 76ers, which probably wouldn’t end too well for Boston.
The Celtics have an immediate shot tomorrow night to try to make their way back to the .500 mark with a matchup against the New York Knicks. The Knicks sit right behind the Celtics in the standings currently, and this game could end up having some large playoff implications. The Celtics have typically struggled with back-to-backs this season, and if they’ve ever needed a big win on the second night of one, now would be the time. Without Kemba Walker, the Celtics are going to need someone to step up and help out in this one. Otherwise, they could find themselves in a big hole in the playoff race.
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