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10 Takeaways from Boston’s season opening loss in Philadelphia

Despite the disappointing loss, there were bright spots for the Celtics

NBA: Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

1. It wasn’t a great night for the Celtics offense against the 76ers. Boston shot just 36.7% over and hit only 7-of-26 from behind the arc. You chalk a lot of that up to it being the first game of the season and Philadelphia having one of the league’s best defenses. However, there’s no excuse for the Celtics missing 14 free throws on the night. In game where points were at a premium, Boston left too many freebies off the board.

2. There was a lot of debate on who would start at center for the Celtics, and Brad Stevens gave that nod to Enes Kanter. When that was announced pregame, there was some trepidation on just how big a night Joel Embiid would have. Instead, Kanter, along with backups Daniel Theis and Robert Williams were solid. Kanter got the bulk of the minutes matched up against Embiid and helped hold the All-Star center to 5-of-14 shooting from the floor.

3. Speaking of Robert Williams…this may have been the best game he’s played in his short career. Williams was active and energetic, but under control. He made some plays on both ends including this high dunk shortly after he got in the game:

Two other things to notice that helped create this play: Gordon Hayward and Grant Williams stay spaced to what becomes the strongside corner and wing. You can’t help off either guy on the strongside. Then watch Brad Wanamaker in what becomes the weakside corner. As Robert Williams begins his roll, Wanamaker relocates to the wing from the corner. That takes Wanamaker’s defender out of help position to cut off the rim run.

4. Theis got the initial backup call and delivered some OK play. He was good in help position on defense, as witnessed by the block below. But he got pushed off his spot too easily when rebounding, which was a partial contributor to why Theis only played 10 minutes.

5. That clip also shows Jayson Tatum making a quick decision in transition to drive the sloppy closeout from Furkan Korkmaz. Unfortunately, that play was one of the few times Tatum got the rim and finished. He was just 4-of-8 on layups. Like the free throws, Boston left too many points off the board with missed layups and Tatum was a big part of that.

6. On the flipside, both Tatum and Hayward were good about attacking bigs off the bounce. If Boston is going to play small with those two and Jaylen Brown starting, one of them is going to draw a big. All three are capable of attacking bigger, slower plays off the dribble and getting in the paint to make plays for themselves or others.

7. Overall, the game was a sloppy mess and that was helped along by an overzealous officiating crew. These two teams are aggressive and physical on defense, but 63 total fouls (34 on Philadelphia and 29 on Boston) was a little over the top. Brown in particular had a lost night due to foul trouble. That is disappointing, because Brown looked like he was putting together a good night. As it stood, Brown played just 21 minutes. On the plus side, he grabbed seven rebounds in his short time on the floor.

8. A big part of the Celtics defensive gameplan was to jump ballhandlers to provide pressure. On this clip, Kemba Walker is guarding Josh Richardson, Hayward has Ben Simmons and Brown has Al Horford. Walker jumps Simmons on the screen, while Hayward hands off Richardson to Brown while sliding down to take away Simmons’ drive or Horford diving to the rim. Walker takes it in the chest and Brown easily jumps the passing lane for the runout and-1 play.

9. Despite the box score showing just two assists, Hayward had a nice night as playmaker. On this play, he drives and draws the defense before finding Kanter for the easy layup. Plays like this where Hayward has the option to find a teammate or to score for himself will be a staple of the Boston offense.

10. In the end, it was a disappointing opener for Boston, but there were bright spots. Hayward looked great on both ends of the floor. Robert Williams was good in his minutes. The interior defense wasn’t a complete dumpster fire, even if it still needs work. The offense missed a ton of makeable shots. Consider that last one a one-game blip for now. If it continues, then it becomes a worrisome trend.

It’s fair to think that it’ll be pretty rare for Brown to have five fouls early in the third quarter, for the Celtics to miss 14 free throws, for Walker and Tatum to combine to hit just 12-of-40 shots. That’ll all clean up, and when it does we’ll have a better picture of the real Boston Celtics.

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