The Boston Celtics controlled this game from tip-off and never looked back.
Even without All-Star guard Kemba Walker, the Celtics had no problem handling the Philadelphia 76ers on their way to a decisive 116-95 win.
Ben Simmons had a strong outing but with the lack of production from Joel Embiid, the Sixers couldn't overcome scoring outbursts from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
For more on Boston's win to avoid a season-series sweep, we have you covered with some thoughts below.
1. Jayson Tatum did not hold back against his former teammate
Jayson Tatum's first quarter explosion helped the Celtics get out to a big lead early and this poster dunk on his former teammate had the TD Garden crowd rocking.
😱 JAYSON TATUM 😱 pic.twitter.com/S8eNhLQiNQ- Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 2, 2020
2. Turnovers put 76ers in a hole early
The Celtics got out to a roaring 22-8 start in the first quarter, making the 76ers pay for their mistakes. Philly turned the ball over seven times in the first frame with Joel Embiid's four giveaways leading the team. Boston turned that into 10 points in their favour and also outscored the 76ers 11-2 in transition, getting out on the break following Philadelphia's cough-ups.
The Celtics 13.8 turnovers per game ranks eighth-best in the NBA and they force the sixth-most turnovers per game in the league. The Sixers got a taste of that in the first quarter and had to play catch-up the rest of the way.
3. Joel Embiid struggles
From the get-go, this was not Joel Embiid's game. From the start, the Celtics matched centre Daniel Theis' minutes with Embiid's and the Philly big man couldn't get anything going. He got into foul trouble early as Boston attacked the rim relentlessly and had three fouls in the first half, forcing him to the bench.
Embiid finished with just 11 points on 1-for-11 from the field, leaving the 76ers offence needing much more from their All-Star centre. He was also a team-worst plus/minus of -25, further showing it just was not Embiid's best outing.
4. Ben Simmons still thrives
The 76ers didn't have it tonight but that didn't stop Ben Simmons from putting forth his best effort.
The All-Star guard was firing on all cylinders even though his team looked sluggish around him. He was all over the place on the defensive end and was aggressive in attacking the Celtics lack of size in the paint.
Simmons finished with 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field to go with nine boards, five assists, one steal and one poster dunk.
BEN SIMMONS 😤😤#PhilaUnite pic.twitter.com/C8syJd0D64- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) February 2, 2020
5. Jayson Tatum paces a Kemba Walker-less Celtics offence
Jayson Tatum set the tone early for the Celtics, going off for 11 points in the first quarter to spark his team against their biggest rivals.
Fresh off of his first-career All-Star bid, he showcased exactly why he was selected among some of the best players in the league. Tatum dominated on the offensive end in this one, going for 25 points with three 3s. He also tied his season-high in free throw attempts, going 8-for-10 from the line, an important achievement for a player whose focused on that area of his game this season.
It wasn't just his offence either - Tatum's defence has been arguably his biggest area of improvement this season and you can see why on hustle plays like the one below.
Nope ❌ pic.twitter.com/rDTLMnKYXL- Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 2, 2020
6. Jaylen Brown is really good
Jaylen Brown was the best player on the floor tonight, plain and simple.
His improvement on the offensive end has been remarkable this season and that was on display in this contest. He was crafty in creating his own shot, hitting a number of impressive pull-up jumpers off the dribble and using a variety of moves to get to the rim. It certainly wasn't his best shooting night from the perimeter, going 1-for-10 from deep, but he had just about everything else falling.
Brown finished with a game-high 32 points shooting a ridiculous 12-for-13 inside the 3-point line to go with nine rebounds, two steals, an assist and a team-best plus/minus of +29.
Not bad. Not bad at all. pic.twitter.com/UgtHFnIT8L- Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 2, 2020
7. 76ers road woes continue
The 76ers are nearly unbeatable at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia - their 22-2 record at home is the best in the NBA.
And yet, they cannot figure things out on the road.
With this loss to the Celtics, they fall to a dreadful 9-17 away from Philly. They are the only team in the league that is above .500, but has yet to notch at least 10 wins on the road.
For as impressive as they have been at home, their road record is costing them a favourable position in the standings to have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If they can't fix these road issues sooner rather than later, the Sixers may have to play the majority of their first round playoff series away from the Wells Fargo Center.
8. What's next for these teams?
With the win, the Celtics advance to 33-15, tied with the Miami Heat for third place in the East and 1.5 games back from the red hot Toronto Raptors in second place. Boston has Monday off before retaking the court on Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks.
As for the 76ers, they fall to 31-19, dropping to the No. 6 seed in the East. Things don't get much easier for Philadelphia, as their next two contests are against the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks, two of the best teams in the conference.
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