To say the Philadelphia 76ers are better than the Houston Rockets or the depleted Charlotte Hornets is like saying Mookie Betts is a better baseball player than Tim Tebow. The Sixers have the star power, the supporting cast, the athletic ability, and the coaching to be a true championship contender this season.
And so a Boston loss to this Sixers team should come as no surprise. Add to this mix that Evan Fournier succumbed to the Celtics COVID Curse, and once again the Celtics are left shaking their heads at what could have been if they were whole.
Once again, this is a "how they lost is worse than the fact that they lost" type of game that we're so used to, but this one comes with an added wrinkle.
Despite the relative ineptitude of their previous two opponents, the Celtics had demonstrated a very clear blueprint for winning. They didn't just beat bad teams, they unleashed an offensive fury based on the core concepts Brad Stevens has been preaching since day one: move the ball, move yourself, and make quick decisions.
"I just didn’t think we hit our bigs enough to cut. That’s just what we want to be," Stevens said after the loss. "We need to do a better job of moving, cutting, getting better baskets. You can’t beat these guys in isolation. And they are very good pick-and-roll defenders because they are so long."
It's hard when the team's best ball-mover, Robert Williams, was on the bench early with foul trouble. It made it especially frustrating to watch him head back to the floor later in the first quarter and immediately bit on a fake that effectively ruined his night. But still, the Celtics continue lose their focus and resolve when things go wrong.
Early on, it looked like the Celtics were, indeed, trying to follow up on their learned lessons. Everything about this early possession was perfect ... until the end.
Matisse Thybulle is the best defender the Celtics have seen this week, and so with him around the Celtics offense had to be more precise. It's like a batter facing Shohei Ohtani after seeing nothing but junk-ballers over for a couple of games. But instead of adjusting to the new speed of the game, the Celtics kept whiffing.