No one expected the Celtics to make it this far without their two stars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. In the first round they triumphed over the Bucks in a close, seven-game series. Going into the second round of the playoff they were the sure underdogs against the more experienced 76ers.
Boston started the game off rather slowly. It looked like Philadelphia was taking back control. But late in the second quarter the Celtics went on a scoring spree. They closed a twenty-point deficit to just five points by the end of the half.
What Was Their Strategy?
Those who watched the game will note that 76ers point guard Ben Simmons did not play the game of his life. As one of the stars of the team and a favorite for Rookie of the Year last year, he was expected to carry the team. Instead, he left the court scoring only one point with seven assists and five turnovers. Moreover, the Celtics outscored the 76ers by 23 points while Simmons was in the game.
Simmons is a passing point guard and the Celtics used this to their advantage. Knowing that he is always looking to pass instead of going to the hoop they put a lot of pressure on him and defended his passing lanes by harassing the three-point shooters. The affect was clear: the 76ers suffered without good ball distribution.
The 76ers backup point guard, T.J. McConnel, actually fared a bit better with eight points, five assists, and zero turnovers. But sadly, for the 76ers, he did not make the difference.
The Celtics are Here to Stay
While the Celtics were straining in a seven-game series against Milwaukee, the 76ers breezed through the first round and had almost an entire week off before facing the Celtics. So, when Boston came out and won handily in the first game (a 16-point victory for the Celtics) everyone said that Philly was just a bit rust from the week off.
But in game two Boston proved that it was not just rust. This young group of guys on the Celtics have something special with coach Brad Stevens at the helm. It was thrilling to see everyone contributing. Rozier played the game of life, seeming unstoppable from beyond the arc. Marcus Smart outplayed 76ers point guard Ben Simmons and Jaylen Brown, coming off a hamstring injury showed he was back and ready for action.
The next two games of the series will be played in Philly. The 76ers have the pressure on the to turn this series around. But they also have the support of their home fans. The Celtics are coming in off the high of winning two games at home and hope to continue their streak. With Jaylen Brown back on the floor they stand poised to keep on rolling.
What to Expect from Game Three
After losing the first two games of the series you can bet that Philly will come out with a chip on their shoulder. To stay in this series, they have to win at least one game at home but it is really essential that they take both home games in order to have any momentum going forward.
It’s never too much of a surprise when the home team wins a playoff game even when they are the underdog. Boston fed off the energy of their fans in the last two games and now Philly has to do the same.
Ben Simmons has to show up. For the 76ers to turn this series around they need their point guard to start playing the way they know he can. He needs to get out of his head, play through the aggressive defense and take back control of the court.
Whatever happens in game three, we can expect this series to continue to be heated. We have an underdog Celtics team with nothing to lose and a favored 76ers team with something to prove. It will surely prove to be an exciting round two.