Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers

Boston Celtics top Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 battle

The Boston Celtics earned a tough victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1.

The Boston Celtics‘ night was started and ended by Jayson Tatum.

The Philadelphia 76ers got out to an early 4-0 lead fueled by an aggressive and locked-in Joel Embiid, but when Tatum knocked down a 17-foot jumper 90 seconds into the game, something clicked. Tatum would go on to demolish the Sixers in the first half on his way to producing arguably the greatest game of his young career, behind a 32-point, 13-rebound performance. Both were playoff career highs.

Philadelphia came out strong in the second half, outscoring Boston 30-20 in the third, thanks in large part to an end-of-quarter surge led by Al Horford and Alec Burks. The 76ers appeared to have figured out how to slow Tatum down — who was primarily defended by Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle — but then Jaylen Brown decided to enter the chat, much to the dismay of the 76ers’ faithful.

Brown — who was a defensive stalwart during the first half — would pick up where Tatum left off offensively, knocking down a number of big shots in key moments that kept Philadelphia chasing Boston from behind. Brown would end with 29 points after going 5-for-8 from 3-point range and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.

In the end, the 76ers just could not keep pace with the Celtics offensively, which may wind up being a struggle for them all series. Embiid, who proved yet again that he can be the league’s most dominant big man when he is fully checked in, led Philadelphia with 26 points and 16 rebounds and will be living in Daniel Theis’ nightmares until the series is over.

Final

Philadelphia 76ers

101

Boston Celtics

109

What else did you miss in Game 1 between the Celtics and 76ers?

Co-MVPs: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown; Joel Embiid

Tatum was a thorn in the 76ers’ side for 41 minutes, leading all scorers with 32 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the field. The Sixers decided to throw Richardson and Thybulle at the third-year wing from Duke, but Tatum cut up the high-quality defenders like a hot knife through butter, particularly in the first half. His second half involved a step back offensively, but two steps forward defensively. If Tatum keeps up this level of play, not only will the 76ers have a difficult time taking down Boston, but so will the rest of the Eastern Conference.

Brown was solid all evening. His plus/minus (minus-4) was stunted due to being on the court during Philly’s third-quarter run, but the Sixers struggled to contain him as much as they did Tatum. When Tatum’s offensive production fell off a bit in the second half, Brown was there to pick up the slack, culminating with a dagger 3 to put the Celtics up 99-91 with four minutes left. He finished with 29 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.

To put it another way:

Unsung Hero: Gordon Hayward

Hayward had a solid night despite his numbers not popping off the page; he finished with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals in 34 minutes of plus-10 play before leaving the game late in the fourth after rolling his right ankle. Hayward played solid defense on Al Horford (more on that in a second) and filled his role adequately within the offense. The only knock on his night was that he did not attempt a free throw. Had he gone to the line a few times and shot better than 33 percent from 3 (2-for-6) he maybe would have been more of a sung(?) hero in the win.

Key Matchup: Gordon Hayward (defense) vs. Al Horford (offense)

As previously alluded to, Hayward gave Horford trouble all night on the defensive end of the court, not allowing his former teammate to establish a presence on the block (Horford’s run of success came at the end of the third when Robert Williams III was defending him).

Horford was limited to six points, seven boards and six assists while posting a plus/minus of minus-16, the lowest among any player on either team. He didn’t register a steal and only blocked one shot while coughing the ball up three times. If the 76ers want to ultimately topple the Celtics in this series, they simply need more from Horford on both sides of the ball.

Next: Raptors defeat Nets in dominant Game 1 showing

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