Celtics vs. 76ers score, takeaways: Boston destroys Philadelphia in NBA regular season opener – CBS Sports

Celtics vs. 76ers score, takeaways: Boston destroys Philadelphia in NBA regular season opener - CBS Sports

The Boston Celtics reached the NBA Finals last June. However, they still entered the new season facing many questions after suspending their coach for a year and replacing him with a guy with no previous experience at the NBA level during the offseason. Despite those distractions though, the Celtics looked a lot like a legitimate contender again in their first game of the season.

Against a retooled Philadelphia 76ers team that added several new pieces over the summer, the Celtics took over in the second half and pulled out a 126-117 victory. The game was tied at halftime, but Boston outscored Philadelphia 35-35 in the third quarter, and then never looked back. For Boston, it was the usual suspects who led the way. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both had 35 points in the contest, and Tatum also added 12 rebounds and four assists. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart also added 14 points and seven assists for the Celtics. As a team, Boston shot a blistering 56 percent from the floor as a team.

James Harden led the way for Philadelphia with 35 points, seven assists and eight rebounds, and his game was arguably the most encouraging aspect of the evening for the Sixers. Joel Embiid, last season’s MVP runner-up, finished with 26 points, 15 rebounds and five assists and rising star Tyrese Maxey added 21 points of his own, including nine in the fourth quarter. The production of that trio was not enough to lift the Sixers to a season-opening victory.

There’s only so much that can be taken from the first game of the season, but the Celtics certainly looked extremely formidable again, especially considering the fact that they were without their starting center Robert Williams. Once he returns, Boston could be very hard to take down. As for Philadelphia, the Sixers clearly have some things they need to clean up, but they shouldn’t be too discouraged after a single game, considering all the new pieces they’re incorporating.

Here’s a look at three key takeaways from Boston’s season-opening win against Philadelphia.

1. Brave debut for Brogdon

After coming two wins shy of hanging a banner, Boston’s biggest offseason acquisition was Malcolm Brogdon, who they traded back in July. Brogdon, the 2017 Rookie of the Year, made his debut for the team on Tuesday night, and it went very well. Brogdon came off the bench for Boston, but he played 24 minutes — fourth most on the team. In that time, he scored 15 points while shooting seven of 11 from the floor. He also added four assists, two steals and two rebounds.

It was solid production, but the full value of what he brought to the team wasn’t just reflected in his own numbers. He provided the team with an extra threat on the offensive end, and an extra player capable of creating his own offense. This made things easier for the other guys like Tatum and Brown. Brogdon isn’t built to be the top option on a title team, but he would make a really nice third or fourth option on one. As the season goes on, you have to assume he’ll become even more comfortable playing with his new teammates, and that could make him even more effective. Again, it’s only one game, but the addition of Brogdon looks like a valuable one for Boston.

2. Boston dominated in transition

If there’s one thing in particular that the Sixers can point to as the reason they came out the wrong side of this one, their transition defense would be it. The Sixers allowed the Celtics to score 24 rushing points, while scoring a total of two — yes, just two — themselves. It’s hard to win a game when the other team outplays you by 20-plus in a single category, and that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night. Going forward, the Sixers must do a [much] a more concerted effort to get back on defense in transition, or else they’ll run out of a lot of gyms. One thing they can do to help themselves is take better care of the basketball. The Sixers have 14 team turnovers (compared to 11 for Boston) and several of those led directly to easy, uncontested transition baskets for the Celtics.

In addition to defending in transition better, the Sixers also need to be more aggressive about generating their own offense on the break. Just getting two fast break points is ridiculous, especially when you have the level of talent that the Sixers do. Going forward, they need to pick up the pace. Getting Tyrese Maxey the ball more often in the backcourt is a good start.

3. A night to forget for Embiid

Joel Embiid’s final numbers from the game look pretty good: 26 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and a block. However, those numbers are a bit misleading, as Embiid certainly didn’t have one of his better performances. I thought he spent way too much time lining up at the elbow or floating around the perimeter, as opposed to establishing a post position that has become his bread and butter over his past couple of MVP-caliber seasons. On the block is where he has his biggest advantage, and he just puts so much pressure on the defense from that position. In addition, he has become a much improved passer when he is double-teamed, which is almost always.

He shot just one of six from long range against the Celtics, but he shot eight of 12 on two-pointers and seven of nine from the foul line. Some of that is on Embiid to do a better job of setting himself up in the post, but some of it is scheme-related. Philadelphia needs to do a better job of helping the big man establish himself down low early and often. Embiid also had six turnovers against Boston, which is not acceptable. He has become less prone to turnovers throughout his career, but he was far too lazy and loose with the ball in this game.

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