LONDON – Here are my key takeaways and “best” and “worst” awards from the 76ers’ 114-103 loss to the Boston Celtics Thursday afternoon at The O2 Arena.
— The Sixers are still a ways away from contending for an NBA title. That was obvious against Celtics Thursday, and has been obvious against the league’s other elite teams. Right now, the ceiling for this team is nabbing a playoff berth. However, don’t count on them winning a first-round series against the Celtics, Toronto Raptors or Cleveland Cavaliers, the teams expected to nab the Eastern Conference’s top three seeds in no particular order.
— Joel Embiid needs to find a way that doesn’t require trash-talking to give his an edge. The Sixers center shot 6-for-17 from the field, and was far from his normal dominating self despite compiling 15 points and 10 rebounds. Embiid acknowledged that trash-talking gets him going. Well, that something that Celtics post players Al Horford and Aron Baynes don’t do.
— Ben Simmons showed some spunk by knocking Marcus Morris to the ground while fighting through a screen. That was good to see from the Sixers rookie. While Morris responded by shoving Simmons, he later acknowledged that it was good to see that Philly has, in his opinion, now has tougher guys.
— Robert Covington and Dario Saric need to step up on a more consistent basis. The Sixers are rolling when they get a combination of Covington, Saric and/or JJ Redick make three-pointers. However, Redick was the only one to produce on this night. Covington and Saric each missed four of five three-point attempts. They also struggled on the defensive end. Again, the Sixers need production from at least two of the three to win. If not, the results will always be similar to Thursday.
— I know it was cleanup minutes in a blowout loss. But Justin Anderson quietly had a solid outing. He finished with six points on 2-for-4 shooting (including making 2 of 3 three-pointers) in the 3 minutes, 50 seconds of action. This was his second game back after being sidelined with shin splints in his left leg. A huge energy guy, Anderson can help off the bench if he continues to make three-pointers.
‘Best’ and ‘worst’ awards
— Best performance: This was a tough one, but to goes to Jaylen Brown. The Celtics second-year shooting guard had a team-leading 21 points while making 2 of 4 three-pointers. Brown also had three steals and graded out with a game-best plus-34.
— Worst performance: Covington couldn’t avoid this one. He shot 2-for-8 from the field – missing 4 of 5 three-pointers – en route to finishing with five points in 30 minutes, 18 seconds. He also had a tough time defending Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum.
— Best defensive performance: Baynes and Horford are going share this one for the job they did on Embiid.
— Worst statistic: This goes to the combined 3-for-15 three-point shooting by Embiid, Covington and Saric.
— Best statistic: You have to give this to the Sixers shooting 64.7 percent in the second quarter.
— Worst of the worst: This goes to the Sixers blowing a 22-point second-quarter en route to suffering a defeat. The Sixers have lost seven games in which they led by 11 points or more.