BOSTON – The 76ers are looking for answers.
They looked anxious at Wednesday’s practice at Lavietes Pavilion while focusing on a new task: avoid falling behind two-games-to-none to the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have never lost a best-of-seven playoff series after winning the first two games.
Game 2 of the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinals series is Thursday night at TD Garden. The Sixers practiced the last two days here in the Allston section of the city looking to correct mistakes. They also need to find ways to better camouflage their defensive shortcomings that cropped up in Game 1, a 117-101 loss.
The restlessness is magnified by the fact that they had two non-playing days to think about Monday’s setback.
“I thought we were playing the next day,” Ben Simmons said. “So I was kind of annoyed by that. I wanted to play just because we lost.
“I wanted to get back on the floor and play. We already had a [five]-day break.”
Simmons wants to erase memories of the seven turnovers he committed. The Sixers had 12 total, which led to 23 Celtics points. Philly would love to wipe away any recollection of missing 21 of 26 three-pointers. The Sixers also want to limit the defensive breakdowns and mismatches the Celtics, in particular Terry Rozier (29 points,) Jayson Tatum (28), and Al Horford (26), benefited from.
The Sixers will “try to reclaim what we have been,” said Brett Brown, whose squad has won 20 of their last 22 games. “We don’t have to make stuff up. They know who we are, and they know what we’ve done.”
However, the Celtics stripped away the Sixers’ excitement factor in Game 1. Boston was content with Joel Embiid finishing with game highs of 31 points and 13 rebounds as he regained his rhythm following surgery to repair an orbital fracture. They were focused on taking away every other aspect of the Sixers’ offense. The Celtics made things uncomfortable the Sixers’ three-point shooters while also limiting the extra pass.
Defensively, the Sixers enabled Boston to attempt a lot of wide-open shots by focusing too much on helping out on defense rather than staying with their assigned man.
The visitors were also hurt by their inability to keep the Celtics’ penetrators in front of them. As a result, Boston kept attacking and taking advantage of mismatches following switches. It got to a point where the Celtics were picking on reserve guard Marco Belinelli, who is a defensive liability.
Look for Justin Anderson to play more than the 5 minutes, 16 seconds he logged on Monday. Brown declined to answer if the defensive-minded reserve swingman would have an increased role in Game 2. However, Anderson received more repetitions during the practice sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday than leading up to Game 1.
Anderson also provided a much-needed defensive and physical spark for the Sixers in Game 3 of their opening-round series with the Miami Heat.
The Sixers will display “definitely better defense,” Embiid said of Game 2. “I’m sure our [three-point] snipers are going to show up, and they’re going to make shots.
“But it starts on the defensive end.”
Celtics’ Brown doubtful for Game 2
Celtics shooting guard Jaylen Brown is listed as doubtful for Game 2.
Brown suffered a right hamstring injury during Saturday’s Game 7 first-round victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. He missed the entire second half of that game and sat out Monday’s game against the Sixers.