The Boston Celtics lost starting forward Gordon Hayward in Game 1 of their series against the 76ers, but it didn’t seem to matter on Wednesday night. Thanks to a commanding 128-101 win over the Sixers, the Celtics took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round series. All-Star forward Jayson Tatum again led the way for the Celtics with 33 points, five rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes of action. The Celtics also got major contributions from Jaylen Brown (20 points, five rebounds) and Kemba Walker (22 points, four rebounds). Marcus Smart and Enes Kanter also both chipped in with 10 points apiece.
Joel Embiid paced the Sixers with 34 points and 10 rebounds, but his production wasn’t enough to propel Philly to a much-needed win. The fact that the Sixers miss forward Ben Simmons, who is sidelined for the series following knee surgery, has been evident on both ends of the floor so far in this series. The Sixers have struggled to lock down Boston’s perimeter players defensively, and they have also struggled to generate open opportunities on the offensive end. It was certainly a tough night for Philadelphia, but the players don’t have time to hang their heads, as they will have to regroup and look to bounce back in Game 3 on Friday night.
You can find three main takeaways from Game 2 below:
1. 76ers still have no answer for Tatum
After Tatum had a monster performance in Game 1 and became the youngest Celtics player to record a 30-10 stat line in a playoff game, the Sixers hoped that inserting stud rookie defender Matisse Thybulle into the starting lineup would help to slow Tatum. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, that’s not how things played out. Tatum had another huge game and became just the third player in Celtics history to connect on eight or more 3-pointers in a playoff game.
This is one area where the Sixers miss Ben Simmons in a major way. Simmons is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. If he were healthy, he would be spending a ton of time on Tatum. Philadelphia has struggled mightily, and it doesn’t appear to have an answer on the active roster when it comes to slowing Tatum.
2. Embiid in desperate need of help
Embiid has had a very solid series for the Sixers, averaging 30 points and 13 rebounds per game this far, but he hasn’t had nearly enough help. With Simmons sidelined, the Sixers need all of their other key contributors to step up, and it just hasn’t happened. The Sixers signed both Tobias Harris and Al Hoford to massive contracts last offseason, and neither has been able to deliver at all in relation to how much they’re being paid. Horford has combined for 10 points through the first two games, and Harris, a player that was supposed to be a go-to scorer for Philadelphia, has scored a total of 28. That would be acceptable output for one playoff game, but certainly not for two. It’s already going to be an uphill battle, and the Sixers will have absolutely no chance moving forward in this series if they don’t get much more production from the other guys around Embiid that are supposed to be key contributors.
3. Celtics dominate battle of benches
After the Celtics lost Hayward for the rest of the series, it seemed like their depth, or lack thereof, could become an issue. However, the opposite occurred in Game 2. Led by Enes Kanter (10 points) and Grant Williams (nine points), Boston’s bench outscored Philadelphia’s second unit 41-20, and the reserves played a major part in the team’s win. On the other side of things, Philadelphia’s top two bench players — Horford and Burks — combined for just six total points, and they were completely unable to provide any sort of spark off of the pine. If this trend continues, the Sixers will have almost no chance of coming back in the series, as the Celtics already have a more talented first five than the Sixers.