Celtics vs. 76ers score, results, highlights: 4 key takeaways from Boston's dominant opening win
The Celtics pulled away in the second half for a 105-87 win
The Boston Celtics are the first team in the NBA to start the 2018-19 season 1-0 after a 105-87 victory over the 76ers on Tuesday. The game was being billed as the renewal of one of the great NBA rivalries, but.
I'm with Embiid. The Sixers are not in the same class as the Celtics. Here are four key takeaways from Tuesday's opener.
1. Jayson Tatum was the best player on the floor
After the game, Tatum told TNT's Rosalyn Gold-Onwude that he's "a lot more sure of [himself] and more confident" this year, and he certainly looked it in Game 1. With Kyrie Irving getting off to an 0-for-8 start and both teams looking pretty rough in the early going, Tatum went to work and never let up on his way to 23 points and nine rebounds on 9-for-17 shooting from the field.
He danced one-on-one:
He attacked and finished in transition:
With merely one NBA season under his belt, Tatum is virtually free of even a single offensive hole. Nothing the defense can rest on. When I was in Boston toward the end of preseason, Kyrie Irving talked about how one of his main jobs this season, not just as the point guard, but as the one guy on this Boston team who has played under the weight of championship expectations, is going to be making sure Boston, with its myriad players capable of going on their own, doesn't get caught trying to do too much individually. Move the ball. Find the mismatch. Kyrie didn't have it going Tuesday night, but Tatum did, and they rode the hot hand. That's what great teams do.
I know it's only one game, but if there was even the slightest question as to whether Tatum might experience some kind of a second-year regression, it already feels like we can put that idea to bed. Frankly, we might be talking about Tatum as Boston's go-to player before long.
2. Fultz didn't help Philly's halfcourt offense
Markelle Fultz started for the 76ers after missing most of last season as a rookie. The 2017 No. 1 pick's final line: Five points, three rebounds, two assists on 2-of-7 shooting for a team-worst minus-16 in 24 minutes. Brett Brown stuck with his plan to start Fultz over J.J. Redick, only to flip the two to start the second half. If Game 1 is any indication, it won't be long before Redick is back in there to start. The simple truth is Fultz still can't shoot, or if he can, he's still not willing to. He hit one pull-up 14 footer and finished another uncontested layup off an eyes-in-the-back-of-his-head dime from Simmons that could've led your grandmother to a bucket.
Other than that, Fultz spent most of his time on the offensive end doing everything he could to get closer to the basket because he clearly doesn't want to shoot from any kind of distance, but even then looking hesitant to pull the trigger. Look at this possession to close the third quarter:
That's not a guy looking to shoot. That's a guy looking to not shoot, doing everything he can to find the one square of floor that he feels halfway comfortable shooting from, having no prayer of finding it, and then being forced to shoot. The Sixers struggled in the halfcourt against Boston, and that is probably going to be a year-long theme with Ben Simmons' inability to shoot. You put another non-shooter on the floor next to Simmons, and you have major problems. There were times the Sixers couldn't even enter a simple post pass because defenders were laying so far off Simmons and Fultz.
A lot of people around the league told me this offseason that suspect shooting would be a problem for Philly, which lost Marco Belineli and Ersan Ilyasova, and Game 1 did absolutely nothing to alleviate those concerns as the Sixers shot under 40 percent from the field and 5-for-26 from 3 -- a 19-percent clip. This is a problem, and if Fultz needs to be part of the solution, it feels like bad news for Sixers fans.
3. Hayward still working his way back
Brad Stevens chose to sit Gordon Hayward to start the second half so he could be fresher for the fourth quarter. It's a strategy he'll likely continue to employ until Hayward is all the way back, which could be a while. Hayward looked fine coming off screens and just generally moving within the offense. He knocked down a few jumpers and finished with 10 points and five rebounds. The most impressive number was his four steals. Boston's defense was super all night.
The luxury the Celtics have is incredible depth, particularly in the form of players around the same size and relative skillset of Hayward, meaning he can take all time he wants to get back to full speed and Boston will be fine during the regular season. Eight guys played at least 20 minutes on Tuesday, and a ninth, Aron Baynes, played 19 minutes. Nobody played 30 minutes. Stevens worked the rotations beautifully. During a preseason trip to Boston,have been going at each other in practice. In all reality, those guys have a tougher matchup in practice than they'll have in 90 percent of the actual games they play in. That is going to expedite Hayward's progress and being out the best in all of them as the season rolls along.
4. Embiid had some ups and downs
The 76ers center tied Tatum for a game-high 23 points and added 10 rebounds, and there were stretches where he looked like the best player on the court. But ultimately, especially in the second half, he wore down against a team that he's struggled against more than others. That led to some wild moments like when 6-2 Terry Rozier came in from out of nowhere to stuff his shot or, more notably, when Brown finished through his block -- then stared him down.
This was only the 103rd NBA game of Embiid's career, including the postseason. He's still learning. And he took the loss well, even cracking a joke on social media.
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