The Celtics dominated the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of this series. They won with defense and by shooting the lights out. The Celtics may not always shoot 49% from beyond the arc, but they can certainly always put out the effort on defense. Brett Brown will likely make some adjustments to counter Brad Stevens’ game plan, but the Celtics will likely be ready for those adjustments.
The Celtics had Aron Baynes covering Joel Embiid with single coverage for the most part and that allowed Al Horford to slow down Ben Simmons and to disrupt him as he was trying to get the Sixers into their defense. It also allowed the rest of the team to focus in on the Sixers shooters on the perimeter.
After the game, Embiid and Simmons both commented on the Celtics’ crowd with both saying that they weren’t impressed by Celtics’ fans. Embiid said that Sixers’ fans in their arena are way louder. And Simmons just felt that they weren’t all that loud either and that they didn’t bother him or the team at all. That should be a challenge to fans at the Garden to up their intensity and noise to another level.
The Sixers still have no injuries to list. For the Celtics, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and Daniel Theis are listed as out. After Game 1, Jaylen Brown said that he was definitely playing in Game 2. However, on Wednesday, Brad Stevens said that he is doubtful for this game. Although the hamstring injury isn’t serious, they are concerned that Brown will make it worse if he tries to come back too quickly. He isn’t out for certain but he’s not cleared as yet either. He will be a game time decision once again.
Marcus Smart got a stinger in his surgically repaired thumb in Game 1 but said that he is good and will definitely play. Marcus Smart will get the start again tonight regardless of Brown’s status. Since Aron Baynes did well in his start at center, he will likely get the start once again. The 76ers will likely keep the same starting lineup also since Brett Brown said that they weren’t going to overreact to the Game 1 loss.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Jaylen Brown (doubtful/game time decision)
Probable 76ers Starters
Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot
Aron Baynes vs Joel Embiid
Aron Baynes did a good job of defending Embiid in Game 1 without the Celtics needing to run double teams at him. He scored 31 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, but Baynes was able to keep him away from the basket for the most part. 5 of his 12 field goals were out of the paint. He’s definitely a tough cover, but Aron Baynes seems to be up for the task.
Terry Rozier vs Ben Simmons
The 6’10”Simmons will have a distinct height advantage on Rozier, but Rozier will likely not be guarding Simmons in this game. In Game 1, we saw Al Horford and Marcus Morris mostly keeping Simmons in check. Rozier will likely shift over to guard JJ Redick, who had 20 points in Game 1. Simmons had 18 points and 6 assists in Game 1, but he also had 7 turnovers.
Marcus Smart vs JJ Redick
Brad Stevens has said that he will use the same starters as last game regardless of whether Jaylen can play. If Al Horford covers Simmons, then I think Rozier shifts onto Redick and Smart would cover Saric. Redick had 20 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in Game 1 but he shot just 2-7 from beyond the arc. He is a tough cover because he moves well without the ball and will run through several screens as he tries to get open.
Also Worth Mentioning
Celtics Bench vs Sixers Bench
With the injuries to Kyrie, Theis, Hayward, and now Brown, the Celtics bench has taken a hit. They will depend on Morris, Monroe, Larkin, and Semi to play well on both ends of the court. The Sixers bench averaged 35.6 points in the first round, which is the best of any team in the playoffs. Their bench scored 17 in Game 1 (Belinelli 11 and Ilyasova 6) while the Celtics bench contributed 19 points (Morris 11, Semi 3, Larkin 5). The Celtics need their bench to contribute on offense and play the same tough defense that they did in Game 1.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins Championships. The Celtics had a defensive rating of 107.7 in Round 1, which is 11th in the playoffs. The Sixers had a defensive rating of 101.6 in Round 1, which is 2nd. The Sixers are second in the playoffs in scoring (112.0) while the Celtics are 8th (104.3). In Game 1, the Celtics got back to playing tough defense, especially on the perimeter, holding the Sixers to 101 points and 19% shooting from beyond the arc. They have to do that again in this game if they want to get another win.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and go after all the loose balls, and aggressively go after rebounds, and be aggressive on defense. They also have to be aggressive in taking the ball into the paint. The more aggressive team will usually get the benefit of the whistles. The Celtics need to be the hardest working and toughest team on the court. We know that the Sixers will be aggressive and play hard, especially after a sub-par effort in Game 1, and the Celtics need to match their effort.
Rebound - The Celtics need to crash the boards as they can’t score if they don’t have the ball. The Sixers are first in the playoffs with 49.2 rebounds per game while the Celtics are 9th with 42.3 rebounds per game. The Celtics were out-rebounded 45-36 in Game 1. The Sixers are first in the playoffs with 16.5 second chance points per game. The Celtics have to work very hard to beat the Sixers to rebounds to avoid giving them extra points on second chance baskets.
Play the Right Way - The Celtics need to move the ball and play as a team on both ends of the court. They have to move the ball and find the open man and not lapse into hero ball. They did a good job of moving the ball in Game 1 and had 27 assists to 22 for the Sixers. The Celtics have to play tough team defense and trust each other on both ends of the court. They have to attack the basket if their 3’s aren’t falling. Most of all, they have to play with extra effort and focus.
Home Game - So far, the Celtics have won their home games and will once again need to get a boost from the loud home crowd. Both Embiid and Simmons said that they weren’t affected by the crowd, which they said wasn’t as loud as their own home crowd in Philly. This should be a challenge to Celtics fans to keep the Garden rocking from start to finish. Hopefully the crowd can rattle the Sixers again and also give the Celtics a boost.
Jaylen Brown’s Hamstring - Jaylen wants to play but Brad Stevens says that he is doubtful and he doesn’t want to rush him back too quickly and injure it more. Having Jaylen would give the Celtics a boost but if he can’t play, it will be once again “next man up” for the short handed Celtics.
The Barkley Factor - After the Jazz win over the Rockets last night, Charles Barkley guaranteed a Sixers win tonight. He didn’t just pick them, he guaranteed it. Since he’s pretty much been wrong on everything else, that might be a good thing for the Celtics.
Officiating - The officiating is always an X-Factor. Sometimes the officiating is very good and they let both teams play and call it evenly. Other times the refs may have an agenda vs a player or a team and call it one sided. We saw the Cavs get 40 free throws to 24 for the Pacers in their Game 7 and the officiating was pretty much one sided with way too many foul calls. However, that was good compared to the Warriors shooting 59 free throws to 20 for the Pelicans in their 2 games. Hopefully, this game will be called fairly and they will let them play and if not, the Celtics need to adjust to the way it is called and overcome the officiating.
Lead ref Mike Callahan can be good or he can be very, very bad. He usually lets the teams play and isn’t a tyrant with the whistle but still makes some head scratching calls from time to time. He called Game 5 against the Bucks and although the Celtics lost that game, the officiating wasn’t bad outside of a few bad calls by Tony Brothers. His home team win percentage is 54.7%. He averages 38.8 foul calls per game and 49.3% of his calls are against the home team. The Celtics are 9-1 in their last 10 games with Callahan as a referee. All in all, he’s one of the better refs.
BRAD STEVENS PRE-GAME PRESSER (Game 2):