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Small moments led to big swing in Celtics loss to 76ers: ‘Comes down to eight to ten possessions’

Boston’s poor shooting will jump off the page, but their disastrous second quarter was what sparked Philadelphia’s win atop the East.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Up five at the end of the first quarter, the Boston Celtics opened the second with a Jayson Tatum layup to put them up by seven. They followed it up with a stop and a Sam Hauser three that gave them a double-digit lead.

Then the Celtics got another stop, forcing a Kelly Oubre miss. But this time, Paul Reed got an offensive rebound. And when his first tap-in attempt, he got another, and the second time was the charm.

A minute later, Jrue Holiday turned the ball over, giving Tyrese Maxey a runway to score in transition, and on the ensuing two possessions for each team, the Celtics failed to convert, while the Philadephia 76ers nailed a two and a three to bring the game within two points in the blink of an eye.

“I thought it was the second quarter when we gave up the offensive rebounds and the transition,” said head coach Joe Mazzulla post-game. “I thought we had some sloppy play.”

Then, on just the third possession following the Celtics’ timeout after Philadelphia’s run, the 76ers got two offensive rebounds, finally ending in a Reed bucket.

Over and over again, the 76ers were able to turn Celtics mistakes into points, and it resulted in a lopsided second quarter that completely turned the tide of the game.

By the end of the second, Philadelphia earned a lead that they would keep for the remainder of the contest. Momentum completely shifted, and it all started with some offensive boards and transition points.

“Transition, turnovers, and long rebounds,” said Jayson Tatum. “Offensive rebounds. That’s kind of where the game took a turn. We gave up the lead in the second quarter.”

Momentum is an X-factor in NBA games. A few possessions can change the course of an entire game, and while they likely didn’t realize it in the moment, that’s exactly what happened to the Celtics.

“I thought we played the right way,” said Mazzulla. “We had well-balanced scoring. I thought we executed. I thought we were connected on the defensive end of the floor. And it’s two really good teams playing together, and it comes down to eight to ten possessions. And we took a few possessions off in the second quarter.”

Some qualms can be had regarding Mazzulla’s satisfaction with Boston’s offensive process. There were far too many one- or zero-pass possessions, Tatum only attempted 14 shots, and even their late-game comeback was a result of a few scramble plays breaking their way.

But as a whole, the Celtics’ assist numbers looked far better against Philadelphia than they have throughout the season thus far. They dished out 28 assists on 36 made shots (up from the 23.0 assists they were averaging through the first six games).

“Honestly, I feel like we moved the ball really well. We just didn’t shoot the ball how we would’ve liked,” said Tatum. “Forty percent from the field and 30% from the three, that was the toughest part. I feel like we got good looks. We just didn’t shoot the ball great tonight.”

Boston’s shooting woes carried over from their Monday night loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and with Joel Embiid patrolling the paint, their offense got caught in no man’s land far too often - too cold to hit consistent threes yet getting turned away by the reigning MVP on the interior.

Despite that, they found success in the first quarter, stringing together impressive defensive stops with Jrue Holiday guarding Embiid and turning them into points. But the second-quarter swing put a halt to their success.

Poor shooting is what will jump off the box score when looking at the outcome of this game, and it certainly contributed to the Celtics’ loss. But the main culprit was the second quarter. Reed’s rebounding and Boston’s turnovers fueled the Philly fire, and Embiid and Maxey never looked back.

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