The big man rotation is the slimmest it’s been all season
Shortly before tip-off, the Celtics announced that Robert Williams would sit out against the Sixers for personal reasons. This news came at an inopportune time for Boston as it has been down two key rotation bigs — Al Horford and Grant Williams — since December 13th. Now, an already-thin depth chart at the center spot is in dire straits.
Robert Williams is OUT tonight vs the 76ers due to personal reasons— Jack Simone (@JackSimoneNBA) December 21, 2021
Enes Freedom will start, and Bruno Fernando is the only other big man available
Ime Udoka is going to have to get very creative tonight
As fellow CelticsBlog contributor Jack Simone tweeted earlier, the only two still-healthy centers are Enes Freedom (who got the start tonight) and Bruno Fernando (who logged a total of 18 regular-season minutes as a Celtic heading into this one). Further complicating Boston’s lack of size is that it just so happens to be facing off against arguably the most complete center in the game, Joel Embiid. Because of the aforementioned team-wide injury woes, Freedom had to step into the starting lineup for the first time this year and attempt to hold his own against Embiid. That’s a tall order for the Swiss native.
Matisse Thybulle is making life difficult for the Jays
Thybulle was an inch away from becoming a Celtic. Back in the 2019 NBA Draft, Boston selected Thybulle 20th overall and then shipped him to Philly for picks 24 (Ty Jerome, who never suited up for the green) and 33 (Carsen Edwards). Looking back on that deal two years later, the Celtics clearly got the worse of it, and now Thybulle is compounding the team’s misjudgment by clamping up their two pillars.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum enter the halftime break shooting a combined 6-for-17 from the field. Thybulle has forced misses and tough shots by getting up in the two’s airspaces; he is a whirlwind-of-energy-type defender who uses his blend of size, athleticism, and IQ to devastating effect, with tonight being no exception. Coach Ime Udoka and his crew should do all in their power to keep Thybulle away from Brown and Tatum in the second half, whether that’s by setting more screens or another avenue.
Aaron Nesmith threw down maybe the dunk of the year for Boston