A wink and a head nod. That was all it took to put the NBA, it’s fans and the Philadelphia 76ers on notice. The Boston Celtics are dangerous and they are ready to win now. Jayson Tatum looked aggressive and comfortable and was the high scorer (23 pts.) for the C’s who finished with 5 players in double figures. Jaylen Brown looked just as aggressive and confident as Tatum, continuing to attack Joel Embiid at the rim all game. It was Gordon Hayward’s first regular season game back since his horrific injury a year prior as well. He was definitely rusty but each time he stepped on the floor, he looked better and more comfortable. You might be asking yourself, what the fuck happened to Kyrie Irving? Kyrie had a rough showing in his first game back since last year’s knee injury, starting 0 for 8 from the floor and finishing with 7 pts on 2 for 14 shooting. Despite his lack of stats, Kyrie was engaged the whole game and he perfectly exemplified what a point guard should be. Without his shot falling, he focused on getting others open and finished with 7 assists and he was also very vocal getting guys into position and giving direction.
However, the most impressive aspect of the game was the Celtic defense. Multiple times throughout the game, the Celtics were matched up one on one with Embiid down low and stonewalled him. A combination of Horford and Baynes was able to handle him and allowed the rest of the defense to focus on shutting down the perimeter. Simmons was able to get loose for a few easy transition buckets but otherwise, the C’s did a good job keeping him out of the paint. Simmons and Embiid are going to get their points, but the key to beating the ‘6ers’ is shutting down their shooting from the perimeter. The Philly guards were forced to drive and search out their own shots when they weren’t dumping it into the post but that’s just what the Celtics wanted. The defense is designed to chase shooters away from the 3 point line and instead, take hard, contested midrange jumpers. The guards were able to leave their man and sink deep into the paint to help with Embiid in the post resulting in a huge block from Terry Rozier.
Overall, great first game by the Celtics. The offense looked stagnant and at some points you could tell that the starters weren’t quite sure who should assert themselves or not. That will take time. The great “experiment” with this team is going to be Coach Brad Stevens working with the rotations to give all the talent we have a chance to succeed. Defensively, I thought we looked great. The C’s are long and fast and were everywhere on the court. My one concern was going small with Horford playing center. Philly is one of the bigger teams in the league and I think if we can trot out our lineup of Kyrie, Brown, Tatum, Hayward and Horford against them, we should be good against any other team.
Play of the Game: Brown over Embiid
Despite missing his first four attempts against Embiid in the first quarter, Brown continued to hammer away until he finally got one to fall. When it did, it rocked the garden off the hinges. Brown took off from outside the key with the ball cocked high near the side of his head. Embiid took one huge step and jumped with both arms blocking Brown’s path to the rim. Brown powered through, slamming into Embiid’s outstretched arms, pushing the ball through, off the backboard and into the rim. Brown punctuated the dunk/layup with a stare down as he jogged back. The young guys came to play.
Player of the Game: Jayson Tatum
The kid is here. 20 year old Jayson Tatum looked years beyond his age as he took control of the offense and led the C’s is scoring. He wasn’t shy and he attacked every favorable matchup Philly tried on him. He found himself isolated on Embiid quite a bit and took advantage of it every time using his handle to either take him off the dribble or create space for his jumper. He was aggressive but he never forced anything instead doing all his damage within the offense at an efficient clip. I expect this “PoG” space to be a revolving door this season but if Tatum keeps playing aggressive and confident like last night, he’s in line for a lot more than just a “player of the game.”
C’s Up! #allabout18 #greenrunsdeep