Welcome to Views from 116. In case you forgot, this column is a perspective from the stands for the fans. Let’s get to it.
Sixers vs. Celtics – Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Yesterday, the 36-20 Sixers took on the 35-21 Celtics. The Sixers lost 109-112, falling to 36-21 while the Celtics improved to 36-21.
I got a ride down to the game to meet my pal CJ for the big tilt against the Boston Celtics. This would mark the first real test in the Eastern Conference for the new-look Sixers, and there was lots of buzz (and traffic!) entering the stadium.
We got some beer and went to our seats to watch warm-ups, mostly discussing how much fun it is to watch Boban Marjanovic. Looking up into the rafters, it was nice to see Moses Malone’s jersey where it belonged:
Ben Simmons was shooting threes in warm-ups and, after his recent attempt vs. the Lakers, made us wonder if he would attempt another one during the game (he would not).
The Celtics were ready for the Sixers out of the gate and won the opening quarter 28-23. I could have sworn the crowd gets extra tense against this team, especially when trailing. The Celtics are such a good defensive team without Kyrie Irving – especially against Embiid, who Al Horford can guard/secretly foul better than anyone in the league – that I wonder if Genius Brad Stevens would consider benching him for a potential Sixers-Celtics playoff series. The tone was really set this quarter that this game wouldn’t be like the last two for the Sixers.
Other 1st quarter observations:
- Marcus Morris finished 7-13 from the field, but you could convince me he never has missed a shot against the Sixers in his entire career. He came out firing early.
- The “Fast Money” gimmick happened this quarter, which is the thing where a fan goes in a phone booth with cash flying around and tries to grab as much as they can in 30 seconds. I can tell you that this fan was perhaps the worst I’ve ever seen. He stuffed some money in his hat, but I swear it looked like he walked out of there with $0. He, much like the Sixers, just didn’t want it enough.
- The 76ers Showdown cam also happened and was particularly good – one lady really gave the lopping Jonah Bolden video a run for its money with the “backpack kid dance” aka “the floss” aka “that dance that every kid does” aka “I’m getting too old for this.”
- Boban had some funny moments, one where he totally plucked a rebound and one where he hit a nice one-handed bank shot over Al Horford (who may have been the best player on the court by the game’s end).
- Furkan Korkmaz played 11 minutes this game. Meanwhile, Jonah Bolden played 0 and so did newly acquired James Ennis. I don’t care who we go with each game, but it’s been a little annoying to watch Furkan eat minutes as a big minus on defense while shooting a pedestrian 33% from 3. He isn’t good enough to justify the amount of time he’s on the court and borderline unplayable in a game against the super-switchy Boston Celtics. Korkmaz ended his night -8.
The Sixers kept this quarter closer, but still lost it 23-24 and headed into the half down 46-52. Trailing at home is rare for the Sixers, but it feels like it happens a lot with the Celtics. For whatever reason, their role players make big buckets and play good defense. Perhaps the Sixers should try that!
- TJ McConnell stood out early in the quarter as a contributor and facilitator. He even took and made a three, extending his team lead over Ben Simmons for made three-pointers. TJ routinely “shows up” vs. the Celtics, and it felt as though he was getting something good going during a run middle of the quarter.
- Good quarter for gimmicks!
- The Big Head Race was just one section away from me – if only! I could collect my own prize of running out of the stadium with one of the big heads (remember, there’s $50 on the line if you can successfully pull this off).
- There was also a giant game of Skeeball going on at midcourt. Tonight’s contestant nearly hit the big money (back target) twice, which made for some excitement.
- The halftime show was some Valentine’s Day dance done in the style of movie Grease. I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day (or the movie Grease) and all the fake messaging that comes with it, so this wasn’t my bag.
The 3rd quarter would be the only one the Sixers would win – to the tune of 28-25, making for a tight final quarter (74-77 upon entry). Although the game was close all night, it really felt like the Celtics were in control. Call it shell shock from last year, call it begrudging respect, but defensively (without Kyrie), the Celtics are a real pain. Horford, in particular, differentiated himself this quarter on both ends – giving Embid fits and hitting high efficiency shots. At this point, I’m in belief that Al Horford is the best player on the Celtics.
Other 3rd quarter observations:
- The more I watched this quarter, the more the lack of Jonah Bolden got to me. He’s the right kind of player against an athletic wing team like the Celtics. From my understanding, Brett is still trying to figure out things with all the new players, but Bolden in the last three games has fallen by the wayside. I believe he can be a contributor in the playoffs and would like to see him take some (or all) of Furkan’s minutes.
- The (rigged) Golden Nugget shuffle took place this quarter. My $20 offer still stands for anyone who can pull off a loss.
- The Chik-Fil-A Challenge, took place as well. This is the thing where a fan has to hit a layup, free throw, three-pointer, and half court shot for ascending prizes. The contestant hit his layup and free throw on the first try, but couldn’t get a three to drop.
- Ben Simmons had this killer hesitation move to blow by the Celtics defense. He is GOOD:
The Sixers played the 4th quarter to a draw in a narrow loss – 109-112. Although the Celtics dominated most of the game, Embiid finally started to shed Horford and put the cape on this quarter. I noticed and was hopeful that this time vs. the Celtics would be different:
Unfortunately, the Sixers were unable to quite reel in the Celtics. Anytime they got close, Boston would just barely push the lead back out via some bad Sixer turnovers and miscues. Perhaps the most egregious among these was Jimmy Butler bricking 2 out 3 free throws with his team down three with 1:14 left to go. Instead of tying the game up, the Sixers remained down 2 and couldn’t quite execute down the stretch. I hate losing to the Celtics for this reason – it never feels like they crush us, but rather that they make us beat ourselves. The only solace I can take in the loss is the Sixers have enough of a talented new core that only they, themselves, can get in the way. If they’re firing on all cylinders, I think they’ll come out of the East. If not, they might get upset in the 1st round. Only time will tell.
One fun aside before I go: the couple next to me the whole game was clearly one Sixers fan (male) and one Celtics fan (female). This made for some pretty fun banter throughout the game (well, at least until the very end). What made me laugh the most, though, was not initially realizing this woman liked the Celtics. She presented herself as very quiet, didn’t have the right gear on, hid her shirt by using her jacket, and then would quietly cheer when something bad happened for the Sixers. I thought, “oh…that’s weird, what’s her deal?” Well, her deal is, after getting into a shouting match with her Sixers-fan husband/boyfriend, her team won tonight. Speaking of, while the win certainly would have been nice, I’m not terribly worried yet – still a ton of talent that needs to get used to playing together. Hopefully they bounce back Wednesday at the Knicks.
Sixers lose 109-112. No Fresh water. No $1 pretzels.
Next time I’m in 116, I’ll share some more views. Until then: 1-2-3-4-5-Sixers!