We should start by noting that the 76ers didn’t have James Harden in their 135-87 loss to the Celtics, and the Celtics are unlikely to stage another 3-point firestorm like the one they have. triggered on Tuesday.
We could, however, go on to note that the Sixers had Joel Embiid and the rest of their core roster intact. We could also note that the Celtics were without Robert Williams and that Marcus Smart hobbled off the bench with a sprained ankle midway through the first half, which barely seemed to slow the Celtics down. The addition of Derrick White is already paying dividends.
We might add that even though Embiid made it to the free throw line 16 times, Al Horford helped limit the MVP contender to 3 for 9 shooting from the floor, and Horford’s impact was evident from the jump. .
It might also be worth acknowledging that the Sixers scored 22 points in the first quarter, 20 in the second and 16 in the third as the Celtics built a stunning lead over their rivals that extended to (not a foul of hits) 51, and that victory continued to close the gap between the Celtics and the tight five-team group at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Tuesday’s game was a beating – an impressive display of a good team finding an otherworldly rhythm. The Celtics still have to mind business against the Pistons to maintain their winning streak heading into the All-Star Break (and don’t be surprised if they fall behind in the first quarter, as that pace is impossible to maintain), but the reasons to doubt this Celtics team ring hollow now. They’re a team no one wants to face in the playoffs, sure, but they have a chance to be more than just a potential first-round spoiler. During that streak, the Celtics have looked as good as any team in the Eastern Conference. Do whatever you want with it.
2. Smart sprained his ankle badly while driving Joel Embiid. He made it to the free throw line after the Celtics called a timeout to get him out of the game, but he limped to the locker room and was sent off almost immediately. No injuries are practical, but a minor just before the All-Star break is – at least – fairly timely. The Celtics hope Smart’s ankle injury is actually minor.
Ime Udoka didn’t get an update after the game but admitted Smart’s injury didn’t look good.
3. Defense wins championships, but 3-pointers and defense combine to generate blowouts. The Celtics set a franchise record for triples, burying 25 of their 45 attempts from behind the arc. Jaylen Brown started the Celtics with a 5-on-5 shot from deep. Grant Williams and Jayson Tatum hit four each. Aaron Nesmith and Sam Hauser added three each as the bench unit extended the Celtics’ monstrous lead. Ironically, of all the players who took 3 points, only Derrick White missed all of his attempts (0 for 3)…and he led the team in plus/minus with +41.
The Celtics won’t shoot as often. However, they can apparently consistently defend themselves at this level for long periods of time. When they get hot from three, blowouts are a distinct possibility.
We will have more takeout later in the evening.
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