Philly Front Office

Celtics Bully Sixers in Season Opening Loss

(It’s just one game.  It’s just one game.  It’s just one game.  It’s just one game.)  Different season, exact same result. A nine-man rotation against the Boston Celtics in the first game is a terrible draw. Any optimistic Sixers fan will tell you this is game 1 of 82, but at some point the Sixers need to figure out how to beat the Boston Celtics. Boston blew out the Sixers on Tuesday night after the return of their two stars (Irving and Hayward), who combined to only shoot 6/26 from the field.

Interestingly, it wasn’t Joel Embiid who seemed to be aiming for MVP votes, but rather Ben Simmons. The 6’10” PG put on a clinic with his passing and defense last night, but overall this was an incredibly sloppy game from Joel Embiid and everyone else on the Sixers. While the game was close through almost 3 quarters, the 76ers had no business being in this game. The Sixers fell to Boston 105-87 and the dream to go 82-0 is officially over. It’s clear that this will be a season of learning and growing. Let’s take a closer look at last night.

First Quarter

After Joel Embiid won the tip, the game began ominously after a bad pass and air ball by Robert Covington. It only took a few seconds for the nightmares of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to quickly return. The beginning of the first quarter was incredibly sloppy and featured four straight turnovers on successive possessions. After a nifty Joel Embiid step back fadeaway with 7:44 remaining, the Sixers rode an 8-7 lead halfway through the first quarter.

Dario Saric had a strong showing within the first few minutes, but three quick fouls kept him on the bench for the rest of the first half.

Coming into the season opener, the Sixers were already at a disadvantage. Three of the Sixers four best bench players (Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Zhaire Smith) were not suiting up tonight. As expected, JJ Redick and Amir Johnson were the first off the bench, and Jaylen Brown immediately began attacking JJ on defense. After a missed 15 foot jumper by Ben Simmons, Brett Brown shocked all of Sixers twitter by running a backcourt of TJ McConnell, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz with 4 minutes remaining. The Sixers were missing shots left and right, shooting only 9/23 from the field and 1/5 from 3. Ben Simmons gathered the Sixers and led the team back in the final four minutes on a 7-0 run. Turnovers were flying off the shelves, and the game was tied 21-21 after the first quarter.

Second Quarter

With the turnovers continuing to pile up after the first quarter, Joel Embiid threw the ball away on the very first possession of the second quarter. The Celtics jumped to a quick lead after an 8-0 run to start the second quarter. Flashbacks of the last year’s playoff series were flowing, as it was becoming increasingly evident that the 76ers lacked a scorer from the perimeter. Regardless of the shot, Markelle was essentially non-existent on the court. -14 in in his first 11 minutes and 0/2 from the field was less than ideal for the “re-debut” of Markelle Fultz. How bad did it get? On one play Terry Rozier blocked Joel Embiid’s attempt at bully ball.  No, I’m not joking.

After a Markelle jumper from 15 feet with 9 minutes remaining, Ben continued to do his best to overcome the massive amounts of Sixers turnovers.

When a second Markelle Fultz jump shot rimed out from 16 feet, Ben Simmons wowed Celtics fans on a drive and no look pass to Fultz for the layup.

Defense kept the Sixers close, highlighted by a block and transition dunk by Joel Embiid with 3:32 remaining. The Sixers trailed by 5 at the end of the first half 47-42.

Third Quarter

Words cannot express how much I hate Aron Baynes. The Sixers killer seemingly does not miss from 3 against Philadelphia – ever. The 76ers came out of the first half slowly, featuring three straight missed shots by JJ Redick who replaced Markelle Fultz as starting SG to start the second half. The Sixers were unable to get Joel Embiid the ball in the post and an Aron Baynes three pointer gave the Celtics a quick 56-45 lead with 9:49 remaining. While Joel Embiid’s offense sputtered, Joel’s defense continued to shine.

Boston began to take over the third quarter as the Sixers’ offense continued to stall. Boston’s 12 point lead felt like 20, and a Sixers comeback seemed unlikely. As Sixers fans patiently waited for Markelle to sub in, it was TJ McConnell as the first guard off the bench in the third quarter with 8 minutes remaining. With TJ in the game, the Sixers were sparked by back-to-back 3s and a steal from Robert Covington that spearheaded a 10-0 Sixers run. The highlight of the 3rd quarter came when TJ kicked it to Amir Johnson for a monster pick and roll slam.

That run quickly ended, however, as Boston promptly took back the lead on back-to-back horrendous offensive possessions by Markelle Fultz. The Celtics led 77-66 at the end of the third quarter as Dario Saric sat on the bench with five fouls. A quick example of the defensive miscommunication from the Sixers.

Fourth Quarter

The Sixers struggled all night coming out of timeouts and after the break. A quick Jaylen Brown and Aron Baynes three sparked a 10-4 Boston run to start the fourth quarter. The Celtics’ 16 point lead was absolutely crushing. With the game seemingly out of hand, JJ Redick finally started hitting some shots and got the lead down to 9 after two free throws by Joel Embiid.

The highlights of the fourth quarter came from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in separate iso possessions against Joel Embiid. After Embiid blocked in an attack from Jaylen Brown (yes, literally blocked the shot into a made basket), Jayson Tatum banked in a perimeter shot. It was painful to watch as Celtics fans and TNT broadcasters felt these two fluke plays were Celtics wins. All in all, it was an awful game by the Sixers on offense and defense. The Sixers were unable to overcome 16 turnovers despite horrid games from Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. The Celtics beat the Sixers 105-97. Only three second half minutes for Markelle Fultz became the storyline after the loss. It was a difficult game to watch from beginning to end, marred with turnovers, chemistry issues, and the Sixers’ shooters missing open shot after open shot.

Observations

New Season, Same Result

We simply cannot stop Brad Stevens, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Aron Baynes. I love Brett Brown more than anyone, but playing Markelle Fultz three minutes in the second half is a major red flag. Brown verbally committed to Fultz getting playing time prior to the start of the season, but how is this kid going to be groomed if he’s not on the court learning during crucial situations? It’s only one game, but the lack of gameplan is very concerning to me. Similar to the playoffs, the Sixers shot 19% from three and 58% from the free throw line against a really good team. The lack of playmaking showed its ugly head again last night as well. Our solid defense was demoralized by our lack of shooting. In addition, the Sixers must learn to be less turnover prone against great teams like the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are simply built to beat the Sixers; they have 3-4 guys on the floor at any time who can create on offense and get a bucket. New season, same result. End of story.

Aron Baynes is Joel Embiid’s Kryptonite

What a horrendous game from Joel Embiid. After a dominant preseason and tons of chatter about MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, the Sixers could not get Joel Embiid going. For whatever reason, Aron Baynes gives Joel Embiid the most headaches in the Eastern Conference. At one point, you could see Joel Embiid’s frustrations as he screamed at Markelle Fultz after throwing the ball away. The offense is built around spacing the court to allow Joel Embiid room to operate in the post. The Celtics play 5 out and allow Embiid to get his shot, but that just doesn’t seem to happen against Boston. To make things worse, Embiid’s recognition of the double team was gut-wrenching last night. Fingers crossed this is the worst game of the season from Joel Embiid.

Markelle the Friendly Ghost

Did Brett Brown forget about Markelle Fultz when he was on the court? For the bulk of the first half, Fultz was sitting in the corner and/or not touching the ball for way too many offensive possessions. If Markelle isn’t going to be aggressive on offense, then we have some serious issues. Markelle finished with 5 points and was a -16 on the court. Brett’s refusal to play Fultz in the second half speaks volumes. Markelle must be more aggressive on offense, but Brett Brown must also call plays for him similar to what the Celtics do with Jayson Tatum. Markelle needs to run the pick and roll when he’s on the court. We won’t see the best of Markelle Fultz until he gets consistent playing time, and pulling him in the second half was a mistake. Love you, Brett, but how long can you keep putting a protective shield over this kid?

Shooters Couldn’t Hit

Robert Covington, JJ Redick, and Dario Saric shot a combined 4/17 from 3-point range. In contrast, the Celtics had 8 players make at least one three pointer. That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s just one game, but the Sixers’ offense seems to overly rely on JJ Redick coming off screens and hitting shots. Covington made some plays on defense but was largely non-existent on offense. Covington was -11, Dario was a -4, and JJ was a -10 on the court last night. Landry Shamet made his Sixers debut last night and looked solid, but he also couldn’t hit a shot, finishing 0/4 from the field and 0/2 from three.

The Sixers Bakery is Open 24 Hours

The 76ers turning over the ball 16 times was the storyline of the game. Joel Embiid led the Sixers with five turnovers, and his frustration was oozing out of his veins in major parts of the game last night. Silver lining: all sixteen turnovers from the Sixers came from the starting lineup last night. Listen, Boston is great. But the Sixers’ biggest strength (their top-notch starting lineup from a year ago) was a major weak spot last night. This will not be the same Sixers team in a couple of months. The rotations, plays, and personnel will need time to gel.

Player of the Game: Ben Simmons

Player Grades

Joel Embiid D-

Dario Saric F

Robert Covington D+

Markelle Fultz D+

Ben Simmons A-

JJ Redick C-

Landry Shamet C-

TJ McConnell C

Amir Johnson F

Thanks for reading, everyone! Let’s all collectively move on to the Chicago game on Thursday and do our best to forget this game ever happened. As always, trust the process and GO SIXERS!

mrcrockpot

"Some would have us go out and buy apples. But we want to build the whole orchard, and you don't get to the moon by climbing a tree."
-Sam Hinkie

Jonah Bolden commented on my first game recap for SFO.