Joel Embiid led all gamers in factors and rebounds, however he was exploited frequently in a Game 1 loss to the Celtics. And Philadelphia’s All-Star heart, by no means afraid to talk his thoughts, is certain to be focused by the Boston crowd in Game 2.
The Celtics defeated the Sixers 117-111 on Monday, shaking off a litany of accidents and a fast turnaround from their Game 7 win over the Bucks on Saturday to say an early lead within the East semis. Embiid completed with 31 factors and 13 rebounds—trying particularly dominant for stretches of the third quarter—however was central to Philadelphia’s defensive failings.
Boston’s 117 factors represented probably the most Philadelphia has conceded within the playoffs, and it was the third-highest whole for a Philly opponent for the reason that All-Star break. The red-hot Celtics hit 17 three-pointers on the evening, because the Sixers frequently blew rotations and coverages, leaving shooters extensive open. Al Horford (26 factors), particularly, discovered loads of daylight when he roamed the perimeter away from Embiid’s consolation zone within the paint. For the primary time in 4 playoff appearances, Embiid didn’t register a block, and his inattentive and lackadaisical moments contributed to Philadelphia’s sluggish total efficiency.
“It starts on defense,” Embiid advised reporters. “I thought I was s—ty. I thought we were all bad tonight. That’s not who we are, definitely. When everybody is on, we’re the best defensive team in the game.”
Philadelphia completed third in defensive effectivity throughout the common season and ranked second throughout the playoffs getting into Monday’s motion. But Horford hit 5 of his six photographs outdoors the paint, discovering seams within the mid-range and utterly clear appears to be like behind the arc. Simply put: Embiid might want to cowl floor extra successfully when Boston deploys its five-out appears to be like.
“There’s a lot of stuff in the game plan that we didn’t execute, especially with Al popping and being wide open,” Embiid mentioned. “That can’t happen. He’s a pretty good shooter and you have to respect that.”
There was a irritating nonchalance to Embiid’s offensive recreation at occasions as nicely, whilst he overpowered Boston’s defenders within the second half. Embiid dedicated three turnovers, he tried simply six free throws, and he by no means drew as a lot assist as he did throughout Philadelphia’s first-round sequence win over Miami. As a end result, the Sixers’ outdoors capturing and ball motion within the half-court lagged.
“Defensively, offensively, this isn’t who we are,” Sixers coach Brett Brown mentioned. “This was a very poor game from us. … We’re going to have to fix some things. … We look forward to getting back on track.”
Boston’s robust opening effort—powered by 29 factors from Terry Rozier and 28 factors by rookie Jayson Tatum—helped restore a rivalry really feel to a sequence that’s dampened by the absences of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward attributable to accidents. The two Atlantic Division groups have squared off within the postseason for many years, and the TD Garden crowd was prepared with a number of anti-Sixers chants all through Game 1.
To nobody’s shock, Embiid responded to the charged ambiance together with his trademark dismissiveness and braggadocio, telling reporters he deliberate to attract motivation from the exchanges.
“[The crowd] was okay,” Embiid mentioned. “I think our fans are louder than that. It was okay. I was fine. It didn’t bother me. They were great. They supported the team tonight. I love that type of emotion because it kind of elevates my game, knowing that there are a lot of fans out there talking trash and saying some crazy stuff too. … Keep bringing it on and we’re going to see how it goes.”
Embiid’s harsh, however correct, self-assessment clearly issues greater than his comparative decibel evaluation. With the scale and athleticism to punish any of Boston’s inside defenders, he want solely look at his shot chart to discover a profitable blueprint. Embiid hit seven of his 9 makes an attempt from inside 5 toes, dashing previous Aron Baynes for a scoop runner, circling Horford for a lay-up, and shaking Marcus Morris with a hesitation dribble to create one other simple two.
Philly’s path to night the sequence and regaining its stability and sense of self begins with extra purposeful play from its franchise heart.