The arrival of Jimmy Butler in Philadelphia was supposed to solve a crunch-time problem for the 76ers.
As a shot creator who thrives on his ability to make tough baskets and get to the free throw line, he presented an ideal solution for a Sixers’ offense that was easy to shut down for Boston in close games last season: Play tough D on Joel Embiid, don’t let J.J. Redick get a clean look and stay solid elsewhere.
Christmas day provided a perfect opportunity for the Sixers to test out their new weapon against an elite opponent. However, Tuesday night proved to be more of the same for this group. The Sixers went just 3-of-15 from the field over the final eight minutes of regulation and 1-of-8 in overtime, mustering just 25 points over the final 17 minutes.
The game-ending script had a familiar feel in a number of areas. Al Horford did a terrific job holding off Embiid in the post. Boston defenders walled off the paint to make Ben Simmons a non-threat. A surprising part of the equation? Butler was a complete non-factor down the stretch, going 1-of-5 from the field with just two points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
So who exactly gets the credit for slowing down the All-Star? Marcus Smart? Marcus Morris?
Brad Stevens turned down none other than Jayson Tatum, who has started to show an improved commitment to the defensive end.