The regular season has begun for the Celtics and 76ers, but both teams have a long way to go.
Philadelphia came out on top Wednesday in an ugly season opener, defeating Boston by a score of 107-93. This one included a combined 63 fouls and 24 missed free throws. So no, it wasn’t pretty.
Neither team found any sort of offensive rhythm, but the 76ers’ size and defensive ability simply was too much for Boston down the stretch. The Celtics shot just 36.7 percent from the floor and 26.9 percent from deep in the loss.
Gordon Hayward (25 points), Jayson Tatum (21 points), Enes Kanter (12) and Kemba Walker (12) all finished in double figures for Boston. Walker was just 4-of-18 from the floor in his Celtics debut.
Ben Simmons led the way for Philadelphia with 24 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris all scored in double figures as well. Yes, that is Philadelphia’s entire starting five.
Here’s how it all went down.
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Gordon Hayward
C: Enes Kanter
UGLY ALL AROUND
The Celtics used their defensive versatility to handle Philadelphia’s size early, but it resulted in some foul trouble. Walker, Hayward and Brown each had two fouls apiece at the 5:43 mark of the first frame, limiting their options for the remainder of the half.
Boston stayed active on defense despite the early foul trouble, using sharp switches and physical perimeter checking to hold Philadelphia from finding any sort of rhythm.
Tatum started the quarter slowly, but ended up playing the full 12-minute stretch. He knocked down the only two 3-pointers of the frame for either side, as the two teams were a combined 2-for-17 from beyond the arc after one.
Tatum had a game-high eight first-quarter points on 3-of-9 shooting. Boston led 25-20 after 12 minutes.
Neither team managed to find their offensive flow in the second quarter, either, as the game’s choppy play continued. Through 18 minutes, the Sixers were shooting just 30 percent from the floor (9-of-30 FG). Much of that was thanks to some good defense from the Celtics, but it also had plenty to do with poor shot selection and failed execution.
Walker showed some flashes of his impressive scoring ability, showcasing a ridiculous crossover against arguably the best defender in the 2019 rookie class, Matisse Thybulle.
He went into the half with 10 points, trailing only Tatum who had a team-high 11.
As for the fouls, Brown picked up his fourth of the night early in the quarter, which kept him on the bench for the majority of the second. Walker picked up his third with 27 seconds left in the half, leaving the Celtics with an interesting predicament for the remaining 24 minutes.
The Sixers did close strong, however, ending the quarter on a 6-0 run to take a one-point lead heading into halftime.
The fouls continued as the Celtics opened the second half in a zone, which led to two fouls in 17 seconds. It took less than two minutes for Brown to pick up his fifth foul, once again limiting the newly-extended wing for the rest of the game.
Philadelphia’s size gave Boston a host of problems in the third, stifling the Celtics at nearly every turn during a 19-2 Sixers run dating back to the second quarter. But while Philly found success, the fouls didn’t stop. Philadelphia and Boston combined for 42 fouls at the mid-way point of the third.
With Walker struggling to hit his stride alongside the majority of his Celtics teammates, Boston turned to Tatum to keep them in this one. The third-year guard did just that with the offense running through him, pushing his team-high to 17 points on 6-of-18 shooting through three.
This game remained ugly, however, with missed free throws, more fouls and turnovers galore continuing to pile in. The Celtics struggled from the charity stripe, taking a brutal 11-for-21 line into the fourth quarter.
Boston trailed 77-68 heading into the final quarter.
This one did not get any better.
With 10 minutes left in the game, Boston and Philadelphia had combined for 53 fouls, 21 missed free throws and 37 missed 3-pointers.
An 8-0 run pushed Philly’s lead out to 12 with just over eight minutes left. With time working against them, the Celtics began to press, only making it more difficult for Boston to overcome the double-digit deficit. Down the stretch, the Sixers’ defense ultimately was too much for the Celtics undersized lineup.
Hayward was a bright spot for the Celtics amid Philadelphia’s success, specifically in the second half. The forward had 21 second-half points and show good aggressiveness with off the dribble on the offensive end. He finished with 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting with five rebounds and two assists.
PLAY OF THE GAME
This is the first of many Smart-Williams lobs you’ll see this season.
The Celtics welcome the Toronto Raptors to TD Garden on Friday for their home opener. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images