1. It looks like the Celtics have broken Joel Embiid and the 76ers. There were the standard quotes out of the Philadelphia locker room about “taking it one game at a time” and “it starts with a Game 4 win”, but there was no heart in those quotes.
Embiid said “I don’t want to be swept. I don’t want that on my resume. I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure that we win a game and take one game at a time.”
Once you have the opponent talking about not getting swept and winning “a game”, you’ve broken them. Now it’s up to the Celtics to finish the sweep in Game 4.
2. On a night where the offense was blah, what broke the Sixers was Boston’s defense. The Celtics were all over the place, led by Kemba Walker busting his tail, as he does here:
Love this defensive intensity from Kemba pic.twitter.com/Hfj733aWfZ— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) August 21, 2020
And they kept it up all game too. Here’s a play from early in the third quarter. Everyone handles their switch and Jaylen Brown comes up with a great contest on Tobias Harris late in the clock:
We’re going to stich two plays together here in the middle of the fourth quarter. The first shows the Celtics collapsing on Embiid for force a miss. Then, watch the defense lock in after the offensive rebound, and ultimately the closeout by Jayson Tatum:
3. As is to be expected, Marcus Smart was great on defense. He looked like prime Deion Sanders at times with some of his interceptions. And, as you can see here, Smart is capable of turning defense into offense really quickly, just like Sanders:
4. A couple of Boston’s kids got into the act as well. Grant Williams held up well all game, especially on switches. On this play, Williams keeps Josh Richardson in front of him before blocking the shot at the rim:
5. Romeo Langford’s on-ball defense has easily been the surprise of this year’s rookie class for the Celtics. He completely shuts down everything Shake Milton tries here:
6. It was another solid game for the Boston bench. Williams and Langford showed up on defense. Enes Kanter was solid against Joel Embiid and on the boards. And Brad Wanamaker played extended minutes off the bench due to foul trouble. Here, Wanamaker does a great job of drawing Al Horford by making it look like he’s taking the floater, before dropping it off to Williams for the layup:
7. It was a frustrating night for Jayson Tatum. He couldn’t find a good rhythm after early foul trouble. It’s a sign of growth that when the jumper isn’t falling, that Tatum will go to work in the post.
There was a lot of talk about how Matisse Thybulle shut down Tatum when he guarded him during Game 1. Tatum made it clear that wasn’t the case in Game 2 and again here:
8. Jaylen Brown’s shot wasn’t falling, but he did a good job of getting himself to the free throw line (8-of-9) and by making plays as a passer. This pass to Daniel Theis is a straight dime:
9. As mentioned above, Tatum battled foul trouble throughout the game. That didn’t stop him from continuing to make plays as a defender. Late in the game, this sequence just about put Philadelphia away. Tatum comes up with the block on Embiid, then races the other way for the clear path foul:
10. What really put the game away was this play from Kemba Walker, which brought back memories of his UConn days. Also, look at the Boston bench rise in excitement as Walker steps back and then explode as the ball falls through the net:
Coffee is for closers. Kemba gets coffee.
The Celtics will look to close out the series in a sweep with a Game 4 victory on Sunday at 1:00 PM ET on ABC.