Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers: Three Thoughts After Game Two

It’s Not Over Yet for the Philadelphia 76ers

Falling behind 2-0 — especially after losing game two in heartbreaking fashion — is a difficult situation for a young team to overcome.  That being said, it’s not doom-and-gloom for the Philadelphia 76ers just yet. The Boston Celtics are undefeated at home this postseason, but they’ve lost all three of their away games.  At home, the Celtics have a 10.8 net rating, in comparison to their -17.3 net rating on the road. This is typical for most young teams, but Boston was actually a solid team on the road going 28-13 during the regular season.

If Philadelphia can come out-of-the-gate strong in game three — like they did in game two — it’ll be impossible for the Celtics to overcome that deficit on the road.

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The 76ers crowd should also be extra-hostile in response to the Boston crowd, who had no problem calling out rookie forward Ben Simmons in game one:

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“Not a rookie” chants at Ben Simmons. 😂

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It’s not far-fetched to assume Philadelphia — a superior team in terms of talent — can take care of business on the road. Eventually, winning either a game five or game seven later in the series.  

With that in mind, the 76ers have to lock-in for games three and four as their season hangs in the balance.

What Happened to Ben Simmons?

Heading into the series, it was clear that Boston had to figure out a way to stifle the rookie point-forward.  The Celtics have done just that in games one and two.

Even when the Philadelphia 76ers were dialed-in offensively, it’s been unrelated to Simmons, who’s faded out of both games for large stretches. Averaging only 9.5 points-per-game on 40 percent shooting, the 21-year-old is out of his comfort zone.  He also amassed a -23 plus-minus in a five-point game two defeat.

Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics have had no problem switching any screen that comes Simmons’ way.  Boston has also started to play off Simmons by several feet, daring him to take it to the rim.  When he starts to get hot this will be a problematic approach. However, Simmons is in his own head at this point in the series.  After botching several lay-ups — where he was given a clear runway to the paint — he became too passive, looking for a pass the moment the lane closed.

The Celtics have done a great job of forcing Simmons to his left hand in the post — which is ironic bc Simmons is lefty jump-shooter.  He missed a few easy lay-ups down the stretch in game two. In fact, Celtics’ forward Marcus Morris dared him to throw-up a left-handed finish.

Simmons can still be effective even if he isn’t scoring, but he won’t have a drastic impact on this series until he can find a reliable way to create his own shot.

The Celtics’ Jump Shooting Will Be the Key

It’s no secret that the team who makes the most shots have the higher chance to win the game. Indeed, the Celtics have taken that sentiment to another level.

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Boston is averaging 16 threes-per-game this series, shooting 45 percent from deep.  This is likely unsustainable for the duration of the series. Nonetheless, the Boston Celtics have gotten plenty of good looks in both games.  The Philadelphia 76ers have broken down fairly often, leading to several open shots, sometimes late in the clock.

Philadelphia will live with Marcus Smart’s shooting. However, everyone else on the roster shouldn’t have an ounce of breathing room for kick-outs.

The 76ers shouldn’t help when Boston’s guards slash to the rim. Joel Embiid is one of the best rim-protectors in the league. Although he’s been a shaky defender since returning from injury.  

Embiid has shown little discipline on that end, getting himself into foul trouble during game two.  Even so, Philadelphia has to trust their big-man and live with the lay-ups that Boston makes.

There isn’t a scenario where the Philadelphia 76ers can allow 15 threes per-game and also win the series.  Head coach Brett Brown will be locked-in on ways to slow down the Boston Celtics shooters heading into game three this Saturday.

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