Early on, the Sixers missed a lot of open shots but the Celtics were not able to capitalize. They were sloppy with the ball and didn’t hit many shots of their own. As a result, the Sixers were able to hit a few shots at the end of the quarter and cut the lead to 3 by the end of the first quarter.
The 2nd quarter threatened to be one of those train-wreck quarters that swings a game in the opponent’s favor. There was a bench lineup with only Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris on the floor that could create their own offense. Stevens showed trust in Tatum by running the offense through him. The rookie didn’t score much but found a couple of teammates for open 3 pointers to keep things in reach. Still, the Sixers were on a roll and were threatening to pull away.
Then Al Horford entered the game like a Dad saving a child from riding a tricycle into a busy street. He immediately asserted himself on the game and scored repeatedly on mismatches. He even blocked a Ben Simmons dunk attempt, ...except that he was called for a foul. But that led to this moment and it was totally worth it.
i believe this is my favorite moment in the playoffs pic.twitter.com/Dr7eVLgjgE— Whitney Medworth (@its_whitney) May 1, 2018
In addition, Tatum started feeling his touch (perhaps aided by getting him in the groove earlier on) and the Celtics built a double digit lead. The Celtics got a scare late in the 2nd quarter when Marcus Smart was visibly hurting after Joel Embiid kicked his injured thumb. Of course in true Smart fashion, he came out in the 2nd half and hit an early 3 pointer.
Speaking of 3 pointers, who knew that Aron Baynes was going to turn into a volume 3 point shooter? That corner three is a great weapon for him, in particular with the intent of drawing Joel Embiid out of the paint.
What was a little less surprising (but no less welcome) was Terry Rozier reigning 3’s. Scary Terry hit a career high 29 points largely by hitting 7 of his 9 three pointers.
One recurring theme of the game (ok, the whole postseason) was that when Al Horford was off the floor, the Celtics struggled. When he was on, they thrived. Worth every penny.