A mix of leftover observations and analysis after the Celtics' 109-101 Game 1 win over the 76ers
1. The Celtics defense in the fourth quarter was superb: The Sixers were hot from the field from the majority of Game 1, making tough turnaround and midrange shots despite strong contests by the C’s. However, once Brad Stevens started tightening up his personnel after an ugly conclusion to the third quarter, the C’s defense locked in. Philadelphia shot just 3-of-19 (15 percent) from the field in the final 10 minutes of the game, opening the door for the Celtics to outscore them 28-16 during crunch time.
The success was due to a variety of reasons. The Sixers were forced to stick with Matisse Thybulle (zero shots in final 10 minutes) to help slow down Jayson Tatum, limiting the Sixers’ options on offense. Boston played terrific individual defense on Josh Richardson (1/4 FG) and Tobias Harris (0/5 FG), forcing both into plenty of contested midrange jumpers or drives into traffic. Embiid got to the free throw line six times but missed all four of his shots as well, with the C’s flashing multiple bodies at him in the post and denying entry passes down low. Tatum loomed large in this sequence, with two blocks and a team-high four rebounds in the frame.
“I thought he was unbelievable defensively the whole game, talking and helping, and communicating and reading, and he just makes a bunch of -- he makes a huge impact on that end,” Brad Stevens said after the win.
The Celtics were a plus-19 in Tatum’s 41 minutes and it’s hard to see that minutes load going down much with Gordon Hayward likely out for at least the next couple games with a sprained ankle. Unlike the Sixers’ wings, Tatum provides elite two-way play right now and that is enabling the C’s to lock down more as long as they keep Embiid out of rhythm. If the Sixers want to spread the floor with shooters, they are going to have to sacrifice defense. In Game 1, Brett Brown went defense first and it resulted in an ugly fourth quarter offensively.
2. Grant Williams may have earned himself some non-Embiid minutes: A one-possession game in the fourth quarter is quite the time for a rookie to make his