Here are a few quick takes from the Sixers’ 117-101 Game 1 loss to the Celtics…
Foiling the three
Boston had a simple defensive strategy, which was to take the three-point shot away from the Sixers. If that meant that Joel Embiid would get some inside baskets because the Celtics didn’t want to double-team him and leave a shooter open, then so be it.
Boston played up on the Sixers’ shooters, not allowing JJ Redick or Marco Belinelli many open looks. The Celtics fought off screens and made most shots from beyond the arc difficult. Both Belinelli and Redick are great at coming off screens and shooting the three, but the Celtics were right up on them. As physical as the Sixers thought Miami was in its series, the Celtics are an even more physical unit.
The Sixers were just 5 of 26 from beyond the arc.
Rough night for Covington at both ends
Robert Covington is a top defender and his ability to guard players of all sizes is a benefit. Yet Covington had trouble dealing with the quickness of point guard Terry Rozier. It was Rozier who got the Celtics going with 13 first half points as the Celtics took a 56-45 halftime lead. Rozier set the tone for the Celtics. What Rozier was doing was beating Covington, with a quick first step and either driving, dishing or shooting a pull-up jumper.
Covington wasn’t on Rozier all night, but was the majority of time. And Rozier was playing with great confidence after a strong playoff series against Milwaukee. The Sixers couldn’t give him open threes, but when they came up to play him tight, he often blew by the defenders.
A play that epitomized the Sixers’ frustration with Rozier came in the fourth quarter when he drove in uncontested to the basket, extending the Celtics lead to 93-79. Nobody picked him up on the play.
Rozier finished with 29 points.
In addition to having a tough defensive night, Covington was often guarded by Rozier and didn’t make him work enough. Covington was 0 for 6 from the field and when the Sixers were attempting to make a fourth quarter comeback, he wasn’t in the game. When Ben Simmons was on Rozier, he made the Sixers’ rookie work on defense. No mater who was on him, the Sixes had no answer for Rozier.
Embiid’s better second half strategy
After playing away from the basket for much of the first half, Joel Embiid got serious and started being more forceful in the post. In the first half, four of his 11 shots were three-point attempts. Embiid then scored nine third-quarter points, by mainly taking it inside, primarily on Aron Baynes. While Baynes is a solid interior defender, nobody in the NBA can handle Embiid one-on-one in the post with his physical strength.
With the Celtics doing their best to contest all three-pointers, Embiid was often in one-on-one situations in the post.
For good measure, Embiid did hit a long three from the top of the key in the fourth quarter, but he was much more effective in the post. Embiid finished with 31 points.