On Friday night, the Celtics defeated the 76ers 102-94 giving Boston a 3-0 lead. Gordon Hayward's injury to the ankle in Game 1 did not stop the Celtics defense from flourishing. From what appeared like a thin roster, the Celtics defense may have more depth than most think.
Boston hasn’t lost in the playoffs yet. They were able to have a convincing win in game 2, winning by 27 points. In the very next game, they pulled it out in the final minutes, turning the series bleak for Philly. But how?
Help on Embiid
Obviously the absence of all-star Ben Simmons plays a huge role in the demise of Philly. However, the Celtics remain at a huge disadvantage in the frontcourt. But thanks to the team's effort on Joel Embiid, they were able to neutralize him. Don’t be fooled by Embiid scoring 30 points a game. Although the Center has been able to score, as expected, it’s the other stat lines that poke out.
On game 3 Embiid shot 35% from the field as he was forced to take tough shots over double-teams. His assists are down and he also is averaging over 3 turnovers in this series. As Coach Brad Stephens throws different looks at Embiid, the center is relying on his other teams. Teammates in which they are not delivering.
The dark horse on the team has been Marcus Smart who’s stepped up since Hayward's injury. He’s been the one to step up and has been starting. Despite his lack of eye-popping stats, his defense and intensity should be recognized. Smart has guarded all positions on the floor, including the center position. Yes, there have been possessions where he was guarded up by Embiid and Horford. What Smart lacks in size, he makes up for in physicality mixed with heart.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s defense has been an undertone on the team. Missing Hayward's perimeter defense from Hayward was something to look out for. But the length and athleticism that both young guys possess are giving Tobias Harris a problem. Harris averaged around 20 points in the regular season. In this series, he struggles at 14 points a game and is averaging around 30% from the field. The reason for the issue on offense is due to the length the Celtics backcourt brings on defense. This is surprising considering Simmons' absence would cause more shots for Harris. Harris is simply delivering offensively.
Many talk about the backcourt for the Celtics because of their offensive talent. Instead, the Celtics defense has been showing their defensive abilities. Even in the frontcourt. Gordon Hayward's injury has brought that aspect of their ball club to light. Right now the Sixers haven’t been able to win a single game in this series. The Sixers must get everyone involved if they plan to make this series competitive.
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