The re-tooled Boston Celtics tipped off the 2019-20 NBA season against the Philadelphia 76ers, the team who poached Al Horford over the summer. Boston fell short after missing 13 freethrows. They were very much in position to take control of the game, but their inability to capitalize on freebies led to an 0-1 start to the season.
Kemba Walker left quite the impression in his first official regular season game for the Celtics. He attacked the basket multiple times, which was something that was missing from last year’s team. Unfortunately, he missed a lot of those looks. He finished with 12 points on 4-18 (22%) shooting. For long stretches of the game, Jayson Tatum got his first real look at being a #1 option, and though he was missing his touch around the basket at times, at least he was getting to the basket. Tatum put in 21 points and 10 rebounds on 36% shooting and 4 turnovers.
Hayward put things together more in the second half, attacking the basket well and letting the game come to him. If Boston can bottle Hayward from the second half and get him on most nights, this team will trend more toward the ceiling of their projections. He ended up being Boston’s best player overall. Boston would surely appreciate that being the case more often than not. Hayward ended the game with 25 points.
Naturally, Al Horford (16 points) has to get mention here in his first game as a not Celtic in 3 years. Horford split his time between the center and power forward positions, and he was aggressive all night. We even got Angry Al Horford at one point in the second quarter. Ben Simmons (24 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists) really led the way for Philly, attacking the basket hard on numerous occasions to expose the holes in Boston’s interior defense.
Enes Kanter (12 & 6) starting was one of the bigger stories, and it wasn’t as bad as reports of his defense might suggest. In fact, Joel Embiid ( just15 points) was silent in the first half, barely making any noise with his contributions. The least shaky part of Kanter’s defensive suite is his post defense, and he was able to use his weight to make Embiid uncomfortable whenever the latter chose to assert himself.
Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Walker all struggled through foul trouble. Brad Stevens went deep into the rotation, which treated us to a healthy dose of Marcus Smart as the lead ball handler (refreshing to see) and highlights like this:
In the end, Boston couldn’t get over their inability to hit freethrows. They missed 14 freethrows and lost by 14 points. You can do the math. There’s good and bad to take from this game, so Boston will try to roll with the punches and hope to get back to averages.
The Celtics will try to build some momentum as they head into their home opener on Friday against the Toronto Raptors at 7PM EST.