It took nearly three hours, but the Philadelphia 76ers got their season started with a 107-93 win over their Atlantic Division rivals, the Boston Celtics. The extremely physical game featured a constant stream of fouls, turnovers and missed shots, all of which combined to make this one of the most forgettable season openers these teams will ever have. All told, the teams combined for 105 missed shots from the floor, 24 missed free throws, 25 turnovers and 63 fouls.
With neither team playing well on the offensive end, the Celtics were able to hang around for much of the game, and were down by just four points early in the fourth quarter. From there, however, the Sixers hit two straight 3s to push their lead to double digits, and that was all it took for them to pull away for good. As rough as their offense was at times, their defense stifled the Celtics on the other end.
Ben Simmons led the way for the Sixers, finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists on 11-of-16 from the field. Meanwhile, the rest of the starting lineup all scored in double figures. For the Celtics, Gordon Hayward finished with 25 points, which was perhaps their lone bright spot, while Kemba Walker struggled to 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting in his first game with the team.
Here are a few key takeaways from the game:
The preseason is designed for players to get back into game shape and shake off some of the rust from the summer, but sometimes that process continues into the regular season, and this game was a prime example. It's going to be difficult for two teams to play a sloppier, more unwatchable game than this one all season long.
Together, the teams combined for 105 missed field goals, 24 missed free throws, 25 turnovers and an absurd 63 fouls. Neither team was able to get into a flow on offense, and the game turned into a slog that lasted nearly three hours, which isn't what anyone wants. A regular season basketball game should never be nearly as long as a football game.
In particular, it was a rough night for more than a few players. Jaylen Brown picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter, and played just 21 minutes due to that foul trouble, while Kemba Walker shot 4-of-18 in his first game with the Celtics. On the other side, Joel Embiid and Al Horford combined to shoot 10-of-27 from the field.
Let's just all agree to forget this game ever happened.
Dominant defense for the Sixers...
While early-season struggles were a big reason for the rough night for both teams, the Sixers also deserve plenty of credit for turning this into an ugly game. Heading into the season, all of the talk about the Sixers was how they could be a dominant defensive team, and they showed why on opening night.
Their starting lineup, and really their entire roster is gigantic; they have only three players on the roster under 6-foot-5. That size and length alone eats up space and congests the floor, which made it difficult for the Celtics to even get into their sets on offense. But the Sixers aren't just big, they have elite defenders. Joel Embiid is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Josh Richardson is a big-time pest on the wing, Ben Simmons can wreak havoc with his length and Al Horford is as solid as they come.
They held the Celtics to 36.7 percent shooting from the field and 26.9 percent from 3. Their physicality did result in 34 fouls, but they should be able to cut down on that problem as the season goes along, and even if they end up fouling a lot, they'll still make every game a rough night at the office for opponents.
... but ugly offense
One of the biggest question marks about the Sixers heading into this season, though, was what they would look like on the offensive end after the departures of Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick. They had problems scoring in the halfcourt last season, and those two were two of the only players on the team who could knock down jumpers and create offense out of nothing. While the additions of Richardson and Horford are helpful, neither are guys who can go get you a bucket.
It was little surprise, then, that the Sixers' offense looked like a major work in progress. Their lack of spacing and shooting meant they had a tough time early making the Celtics pay for sending doubles at Embiid, and they were often forced into rushed shots at the end of the shot clock. In addition, they turned the ball over 15 times.
The good news for them is they still have Simmons and Embiid, and those two alone are going to be way too much for most opponents over the course of the season. Any time they can get out in transition, Simmons is just unstoppable. Still, they have some work to do on this end of the floor.
Rough debut for Walker
The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving during the offseason when the mercurial point guard decided to take his talents to Brooklyn and join the Nets along with Kevin Durant. But what could have been a disaster of an offseason was saved to some extent when they were able to steal Walker away from the pitiful Hornets.
There was plenty of excitement surrounding Walker heading into the season, not only for his play on the floor, but because his personality is completely different from Irving. The quiet leadership was a welcome change from Irving, who was well-meaning but erratic at times.
Unfortunately, playing well on the court matters the most, which made Wednesday night rough for Celtics fans. Walker was a disaster in his debut. He struggled to deal with the Sixers' size on the perimeter, and missed a bunch of open shots. In the end, he finished with just 12 points on 4-of-18 from the field. Meanwhile, Irving.
The good news is Walker got one of his worst shooting games of the season out of the way, as well as the nerves of making his debut with the Celtics.