The Boston Celtics have been “upset and upset” over the past 48 hours after losing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at home to the Philadelphia 76ers, according to manager Joe Majula. So from the early hours of Game 2 on Wednesday night, Celtics guard Jaylen Brown decided to set a different tone for the rest of the team to follow.
Brown responded to Tobias Harris’ opening bucket, knocking down a 3-pointer on Boston’s first offensive possession, then picked off James Harden and defended full court from the moment the Sixers inbounded the ball.
It all led to a dominant Celtics effort in a 121–87 victory over the Sixers in Game 2. It was their first defeat of the post-season and the series was tied at 1–1. Game 3 will be held Friday night in Philadelphia.
Brown said after the game, “We took a lot of pride in ourselves.” “I felt like we played poorly in the last game, and we wanted to come out and play our best. That’s what we did.”
Brown led all scorers with a game-high 25 points and helped pick up some slack from Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who scored seven points in only 19 minutes of play after spending most of the game in the foul. This is Boston’s largest winning percentage in any game Tatum has held by less than 10 points.
“Our strength is our depth,” said Celtics guard Malcolm Brockden, who tied a franchise playoff record with six 3-pointers off the bench and finished with 23 points. “The way the roster is structured, players like me, Derek [White] and Grant [Williams] are playing behind our two superstars and are ready to [contribute] when we can.”
Meanwhile, the Celtics maintained the strength of their defense all night. They held Harden to 12 points after Harden scored 45 points in Game 1 and held returning and newly named NBA MVP Joel Embiid to 15 points.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart said, “We have to pay tribute to [Brown]. He started all the momentum for us.” “We had to follow his lead. When one of the best players sets that tone, it’s hard not to follow. Our defense was slipping and we wanted to come out and undo what happened. We try our best.”
Boston’s win on Wednesday marked the 15th consecutive win for a team that was shut out in Game 1 of a playoff series at home and came back to win Game 2.
After being criticized for their defensive efforts earlier in the series, the Celtics upped their intensity against the Sixers on Wednesday night. Harden shot 2-for-14 from the field (0-for-6 in 3 seconds) and had the worst field goal percentage in NBA postseason history behind the 45-point game.
The Celtics put him in space in Embiid’s first game back from a knee injury and attacked the pick-and-roll to see how many runs he could handle. Embiid went 4-for-9 from the field but finished with 5 blocks.
Meanwhile, the Celtics put the game out of reach by making 20 of 51 3-pointers in the game, including making seven 3-pointers in the third quarter after attempting a season-low 26 3-pointers in Game 1. . Boston outscored the Sixers 35–16 in the third quarter, and Tatum and Brown were able to rest during the final period while the Celtics held on to win.
Celtics forward Grant Williams said, “You don’t want to go into a game where it looks like you let one go.” “We did a lot last year and this year we did a lot. It definitely gives you a certain edge. But the question now is can we do the same in the next game.”
“Does that edge stay or does that edge disappear? Because now all of a sudden you’ve won one and now you’re taking your foot off the gas. You can’t do that. For us, it’s about keeping it the same.” The physical quality, the same intensity, the same approach goes into play, and it’s going to be very important for this series. We can’t be the first to fall.”