Boston started the game without three starters with Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Rob Williams all out. Late in the first half, Jaylen Brown exited for the night after colliding with Jayson Tatum while going for a rebound.
The Celtics have good depth, but being down four starters is ridiculous for any team to overcome. But Boston battled and never really lost control of the game at any point in the second half.
This was as gritty and gutty as a win as the Celtics have had all season. And they did it with a terrific team effort too. These are the kinds of wins you build on during the dog days of the season.
2. We have to start with Blake Griffin, because on a surprising night all around, his night was the most surprising of all.
The Sixers had no intentions of having Joel Embiid step out to Griffin. They picked their poison and Griffin delivered the venom.
Embiid is a mile off here before Jaylen Brown even starts any sort of drive:
Next trip, Embiid picks up Jayson Tatum on a cut and Griffin makes them pay again:
This is borderline disrespectful on a BLOB play. Of course, Griffin drilled it:
3. Philadelphia chose to have James Harden and Tobias Harris act as the primary defenders on Derrick White. That’s fine, as it’s probably the best of a lot of not-great options. But White’s been going against Harden for years now. He knows how to get himself going in that matchup, which he did time and time again.
Part of that starts with pushing the ball in transition. White goes coast-to-coast here before the Sixers can set their defense with Embiid in the lane:
Good steal by Grant Williams to start this play, terrific runout by Jaylen Brown and the perfect hit-ahead pass from White:
Bad turnover from White here. But he doesn’t get in his feelings about it. Nope, the best shot-blocking guard in the NBA gets back for the chasedown block:
4. Jayson Tatum never really got in rhythm with his shot in this one. Instead, Tatum impacted the game as a playmaker.
Tatum sort of draws three defenders here. Joel Embiid doesn’t step all the way to him, but he’s at least moving in that direction. All of that attention leaves Grant Williams open and Tatum sets him up:
Again, Tatum draws the extra guy and doesn’t force it. He makes the simple pass out to Derrick White:
Tatum loses the ball momentarily here, but the look-off at the end is part of what leaves Blake Griffin so open in the strongside corner:
This is probably the best pass of them all. Because Tatum beats his man on the baseline, the Sixers are caught up rotation and Tatum kicks it out to Sam Hauser:
5. Jayson Tatum wasn’t he only one to step up as a playmaker. Grant Williams had one of his best passing games of the season too.
This is a terrific read of the floor. Williams probably could have taken a dribble and shot this himself, but he saw Sam Hauser lift out of the corner without a defender following:
Not even trying to be funny, but this off-the-dribble hook-pass to the opposite corner is one of the best reads Williams has ever made:
If you’re a big for the Celtics, you have to be able to pass on the short roll. Two on the ball on Tatum, help comes to pick up Williams on the slip, and he sets up Hauser again:
6. As of this writing, there’s been nothing from the Celtics on the status of Jaylen Brown. After a scary collision late in the first half, Brown was ruled out for the night at halftime. He and Jayson Tatum went after the same rebound, and Tatum’s elbow caught Brown right under his left eye.
As Brown stood up, it appeared there was already significant swelling in the area where he got hit. There’s reporting he’ll be out several games and will miss the All-Star game. That’ll be something to monitor for Boston.
7. Malcolm Brogdon came up big off the Boston bench. With Brown and others out, Brogdon went 35 minutes. And he delivered 19 big points for the Celtics.
At the start of the second half, Joe Mazzulla called for Brogdon to run a screen action. When no one from Philadelphia picked him, Brogdon pulled the easy three-pointer:
P.J. Tucker is like a fire hydrant with legs. This play shows how strong Brogdon is to go through Tucker to draw the and-1:
8. Luke Kornet probably isn’t the first guy you think of to go against Joel Embiid, but he more than held his own.
Kornet has been a surprisingly solid lob-finisher for Boston all season. Again, Tatum draws two and Kornet flushes it home:
Embiid thinks he has a dunk here to send Philly into the half on a high-note. Kornet has other plans:
Joe Mazzulla used a use-it-or-lose-it timeout to set this play up with 0.5 left on the shot clock. This is a really tough angle for Derrick White to deliver this pass, but with the Sixers preoccupied with Tatum for some reason, Kornet is wide-open at the rim:
9. In the interest of time (Trade Deadline Day!) we’re giving this spot to Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard. These two are always prepared. They go through it at times, but both have delivered quite often for Boston.
Hauser has rediscovered his shot in the last couple of games. This is the sort of no-hesitation, catch, rise, fire we saw from Autumn Hauser:
As for Pritchard, he was thrown in cold in the second half, because Boston was down so many guys. Yet, on one of the bigger plays at the end of the game, he stoned an MVP candidate:
10. It’s trade deadline day on Thursday. When we see the Celtics play on Friday against the Charlotte Hornets, they could look like a somewhat different team. Brad Stevens and his staff are looking for ways to upgrade the team, whether it be via trade or the buyout market.
No matter what, if you’re wearing the green and white, the Celtics expect you to step in and play when your number is called. Next man up is a real thing for Boston. And they showed it in beating an Eastern Conference rival once again.