1. It’s never easy to sweep an opponent in the NBA Playoffs, but that’s exactly what Boston pulled off against Philadelphia. A lot was made about the 76ers being shorthanded without Ben Simmons, but the Celtics were without Gordon Hayward for the final three games of the series. While Simmons is more important to the Sixers, the guys in green played down a man too.
This series was also somewhat of a coaching clinic by Brad Stevens. Boston was well-prepared to attack Philadelphia’s drop coverage defense. The Celtics also adjusted as the 76ers changed their plans. In Games 2 and 3, the Sixers started trying to trap Jayson Tatum. Stevens had Tatum bring the ball up, get it to a guard at halfcourt and then work off-ball to get open. On defense, Boston built to Joel Embiid and played outwards from there, trusting their athletic wings to get out and challenge shots. Overall, this was one of Stevens’ more impressive series as the Celtics head coach.
2. Daniel Theis had a bad turnover, then committed a foul and less than 30 seconds into the game, he was on the bench. That set the tone for how seriously Brad Stevens wanted to close out Philadelphia. Enes Kanter got the first call off the bench and he played well.
Kanter has had good chemistry all year with the second unit players, but has started to develop some with the starters as well. Rather than attack the drop off the bounce, Boston runs this play through Jayson Tatum as a sort of a roller, followed by Kanter rolling right behind him. At the bottom of the screen, look at Marcus Smart lift Tobias Harris out of the play. That leaves Joel Embiid two-on-one and Tatum makes the pretty pass for the Kanter dunk:
This play features good ball movement and Tatum not settling for a jumper. He quickly drives the Embiid closeout. As he does so, Kanter re-positions under the basket. The result is an easy layup:
3. Without early foul trouble to deal with, Tatum was big on both ends. He finished with a career-high 15 rebounds (regular season or playoffs), four assists and 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting. While Tatum hit a couple of threes, he had it going inside as well. Here, he comes off the pick and sees Embiid is up. Tatum freezes him with the inside-out dribble and finishes with the lefty layup:
Later in the first half, Tatum was patient and kept his dribble long enough to use the Daniel Theis’ seal to get another layup:
4. Speaking of patience, it’s a big part of Tatum’s growth as a scorer. He’s patient and willing to go to other things when his jumper isn’t falling. Tatum gets in the post here. He takes his time to let the traffic clear, then uses a couple of dribbles before going up and over the smaller defender for the and-1:
Later in the game, Tatum shows his developing patience when dealing with double-teams. Instead of picking up his dribble when Embiid doubles, Tatum keeps it alive. As Embiid clears to get back to the rim, Tatum keeps Matisse Thybulle on his hip and turns back into the easy floater:
5. Jaylen Brown hit a couple of early jumpers to get the Celtics offense started and then settled into a complementary role after. This pass was beautiful. It’s not an easy find from the block to the opposite wing. Also, look at Kemba Walker not only screen off Marcus Smart’s man, but to call for the skip pass from Brown to Smart:
6. It’s not going to happen as much against Toronto, as they play similarly sized wings to Boston. But if the Celtics advance to play the Bucks, Jaylen Brown is going to draw a bigger defender a lot. Brown can drive those bigs for buckets, as he does here to Al Horford:
7. Brad Stevens talks a lot about the ball hitting the paint for the Celtics offense to be at their best. Here, the ball hits the paint twice before Daniel Theis buries a wide-open triple:
8. Let’s talk about Theis for a minute…He could have sulked when he got pulled after 30 seconds, but he got back in the game and had a huge impact. Theis scored 15 points and made some big plays as Boston took control of the game. He has a good understanding of where and when to cut, as he shows here with the strong finish:
9. As Boston put the game away, it became a lob party. First, it was Marcus Smart finding Theis:
The very next play, Smart lobbed it up for Tatum:
10. Now, it’s on to the Toronto Raptors. It feels like we’ve all wanted a Celtics/Raptors series for years. We’re finally going to get it. Despite Boston winning three-of-four in the regular season, including a blowout in the bubble, these teams are very evenly matched.
Health will be a factor, as Gordon Hayward is expected to miss the entire series for the Celtics. For the Raptors, Kyle Lowry is dealing with a foot injury that he suffered in Toronto’s last game of their sweep of the Brooklyn Nets. It’s unknown what Lowry’s availability will be at this point.
Stay tuned to CelticsBlog, as we’ll get you ready for the Toronto series leading up to Game 1 on Thursday, August 27.