And we are back with another edition of the How ‘Bout Them Celtics Tri-Weekly.
The Boston Celtics fell to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, but their unique defensive tactic against Joel Embiid worked. Plus, Jaylen Brown talked about the In-Season Tournament, and the Celtics’ offense continues to be inconsistent.
Sam’s Pick: The Celtics withered at key moments against the 76ers
The Celtics have now melted in back-to-back games. They failed to finish off the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, then came up short in key moments against the 76ers on Wednesday.
About halfway through the second quarter, the Cs had built themselves a double-digit lead. From then on things just started to spiral. Sixers backup center Paul Reed turned the tide as he simply outworked Boston on the glass. Reed ripped down three offensive rebounds in that stretch, which he turned into six points for Philly.
At the same time, the Celtics made killer mistakes offensively. It started when Jrue Holiday failed to convert on an open layup, then turned the ball over on the following possession.
By the time the halftime buzzer went off, Boston had gone from up 11 to down 7.
As brutal as that swing was, it wasn’t the most painful part of Wednesday’s loss. That would be the third quarter.
After the break, both teams were ice cold. The Celtics shot 6-of-24 in the third quarter, while the 76ers shot 8-of-25. There were so many opportunities for Boston to regain momentum and they just couldn’t capitalize on a quarter where they held the Sixers to just 20 points.
What made it even more frustrating was that 18 of Boston’s 24 attempts came from beyond the three-point line. I get it. Joel Embiid was just camping by the basket on defense. Those long-range attempts are important if there’s any hope of getting him to leave the paint. But, when the door is as wide open as it was here, there just has to be more creativity.
I just went back and watched every single three-point attempt from the third quarter and the bulk of them came with 10-14 seconds remaining on the shot clock. In that range, the Cs only forced up three contested looks and the rest were open.
On the surface, it seems like the misses were just unlucky, which can absolutely be true. But, many of the attempts were good shots, rather than great shots. With that much time remaining on the clock, they should probably look to get better shots at least two or three times. I get it, they have to take what’s given to them. In this case, it just felt like they were playing into what the Sixers wanted, a bit too much.
Jack’s Pick: Jrue Holiday vs. Joel Embiid
Following the loss to the 76ers, all eyes are going to be on the negatives, as is natural for Celtics fans. Boston lost to Philadelphia. The sky is falling. Two losses in a row mean the world is ending. In reality, it’s the seventh game of the season. It’s alright.
What was interesting in the Celtics’ loss, however, was their decision to guard Joel Embiid with Jrue Holiday for the majority of the contest.
At the very beginning of the game, the plan was a failure. Embiid got too deep in the post and bullied Holiday, and when he got the switch he wanted, he dunked all over Kristaps Porzingis. But as the Celtics got used to the idea, it started to work.
Holiday was able to keep Embiid from his spots, and even when the big man managed to get himself into a favorable position, Boston was able to send help quickly enough to minimize the damage.
In the first quarter, the Celtics were able to use this style of defense to earn some easy transition buckets, as they turned Embiid over twice. (He finished with six on the night).
Holiday has been guarding bigger players all season, drawing matchups against Julius Randle and Karl-Anthony Towns. But Embiid is a different animal. That said, from the looks of it, Holiday was more than comfortable keeping him at bay, especially with the scheme Boston placed around him.
Expect to see him guard bigger players a lot more often this year so the Celtics can keep Kristaps Porzingis around the basket. (Early guess: Holiday draws the Nikola Jokic assignment AND the Giannis Antetokounmpo assignment.)
Those were just a few of the main talking points from Thursday’s podcast. Also featured was discussion of what a possible extension for Jrue Holiday should look like, the Los Angeles Lakers complaining about a lack of calls for LeBron James, and the famous “Rat List.”