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Numbers game: Larkin’s impact, limiting Ilyasova and Belinelli, and Ojeleye muscling Simmons

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With their depth depleted by injuries, the Celtics are still getting key contributions from their bench.

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1 of the second round series between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers delivered a lot of interesting nuggets. Here are some of the most interesting in short form:

  • Shane Larkin’s box score isn’t impressive, but that doesn’t tell the story. He scored just five point on 1-of-6 shooting, but he also handed out four assists and grabbed three rebounds. More importantly, he was a pest on defense, generally against much bigger players. Larkin finished the game +10, meaning his impact went far beyond his basic stat line.
  • Outside of garbage time, Brad Stevens went with just an eight man rotation. Despite the limited number of players including the recovering Jaylen Brown, only Jayson Tatum played more than 35 minutes. With a banged up roster, Stevens’ ability to still manage minutes this late in the season has been incredibly beneficial.
NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Terry Rozier and Tatum both scored playoff career-highs with 29 and 28 points respectively. Rozier also contributed eight rebounds and six assists, continuing his remarkable playoff run.
  • For the bulk of the game, Boston matched Joel Embiid’s minutes with Aron Baynes. When Baynes needed a rest, Al Horford picked up Embiid. No matter who was covering the talented big man, the Celtics defended him straight up with no help. According to a couple of different data sources, Boston sent just one double at Embiid all game long and it came fairly late in the fourth quarter. That is the lowest amount of double-teams Embiid has faced in a game in his young career.
NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Not doubling Embiid was obviously part of the strategy to allow the Celtics to stick with the Sixers shooters on the perimeter. Philadelphia got off 26 three-point attempts, but hit just five of them. Of the 26 attempts, 20 were considered contested or closely guarded.
  • The primary defender on Ben Simmons was Horford, just as Boston had done in the regular season. When Horford went to the bench, the Celtics went to Semi Ojeleye for most of those minutes, with Marcus Smart and Tatum drawing a few possessions each. By dropping off Simmons, but keeping a bigger defender on him to defend against drives, the Celtics were able to keep him in check.
On/Off +/- Game 1 rotations
Basketball Reference
  • Greg Monroe didn’t play in Game 1, but this still feels like a series where Monroe will get a chance. Philadelphia rarely plays without two bigs on the floor, so Monroe should still get a call to play some valuable reserve minutes at some point in the series.
  • Boston will need to clean up their rebounding. Dario Saric was active on the offensive glass all game long, collecting five boards on that end. Saric wasn’t utilized much as a scorer, but he did manage to hand out four assists.
NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Philadelphia got shockingly little from their bench, as Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli were the only players to play more than six minutes. Both perimeter-based players were rendered ineffective with the Celtics sticking so closely to shooters.
  • Markelle Fultz did not play in Game 1, despite being healthy and available. He’s been out of the rotation since early in the first round series against the Miami Heat. Fultz appeared unready to deal with the amped up physicality of the playoffs. It’s far too early to decided last year’s trade, but Boston gets early marks for Tatum contributing to playoff wins and an additional first round pick still pending delivery to the Celtics.