That was… a pretty bad basketball game. Turns out the Celtics are total shit without Kyrie Irving, which I think we already knew.
It was summed up brilliantly by Brad Stevens, who did a compelling and rich interview with Kristen Ledlow at the end of the third quarter:
Ledlow: Here with Celtics coach Brad Stevens; you limited the turnovers in the third quarter, what else has to change offensively in the 4th?
Stevens: A lot. We stink. First three quarters, we’ve stunk.
Well said, coach.
You can slap a big, fat asterisk on that win and say, “well Boston didn’t have their best player,” but while it might be fair, that’s a bit disrespectful of a fine Joel Embiid performance, plus some really nice team defense.
Yeah, they almost blew another lead, but they didn’t. They won. Two straight games now that they’ve successfully closed out. That’s five wins in six to improve to 21-20 and go above .500 for the first time since December 12th.
That’s me, I’m the pragmatist. I’ll look for the positives in a nine-point road win, no matter who’s on the floor. It can be Kyrie Irving or Larry Bird or Brian Scalabrine. All you can do is go out and play the squad they put in front of you.
1) Jojo All Star
26 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, and only 4 turnovers, which is a reasonable turnaround from the 7 he committed on MLK Day.
Let’s focus on the assists. This was the first time since mid-December that Joel has dished out more than five.
He made smart decisions on the perimeter last night, recognizing double teams and overplays earlier than he normally does and finding teammates in open space:
You don’t see many seven-footers who can fake a three-pointer and dish it to the 4-man for a drive to the paint, but that’s what happens when centers pursue Embiid to the perimeter like Daniel Theis does in that clip.
Another one, this time without the end product, but a play where Embiid has a high middle starting point:
Best part of that play, outside of the pass, is that T.J. McConnell is setting an off-ball screen to let Justin Anderson curl to the rim. He doesn’t get the basket, but that’s a great example of guys moving while Joel is in possession, instead of just standing around and staring at him. They have a bad habit of becoming static, especially when he’s working in the low post and they’re spread around the perimeter.
McConnell back door for a turn around fade?
Sure, why not.
Embiid could have had 8-10 assists last night if all of his brilliant passes were finished off.
There was also this:
Embiid entered the game after the Cs had pulled within 11 and he then scored or assisted on Philly's next 14 points.
71-53 after 3.
— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) January 19, 2018
2) Robert Covington
Five points on 1-5 shooting, 1-4 from downtown.
He’s shooting 33% in the month of January and just 30.4% from downtown, hitting 7 of 23 attempts.
The big groan last night was when he passed up a late attempt to move closer to the rim before the shot clock went. He’s seemed to lack the killer instinct and aggression that we saw earlier in the season.
Some of that is just him falling back down to Earth. There’s no way he was going to continue to shoot 50% from beyond, which is where he was nine games into the season. His defense continues to be excellent, but you see how limited his offensive game is when he’s not catching and shooting with success.
He’s still on pace to eclipse his career numbers this season, but you wouldn’t expect anything less now that he’s been paid. The expectations are simply higher.
Here’s how Cov has done in his last 10 games:
Yea, the season numbers still hold up, but they’re going to fall below 2016-2017 averages if he finishes January the way he started.
3) No Kyrie
The Celtics are averaging 102.7 points this season.
In three games without Kyrie Irving, they’ve put up 80, 85, and 95 points. And in the game where he took a shot to the face and only played 2 minutes, they finished with 90 points.
So you see what happens when you lose your All-Star point guard, a guy averaging 24.1 points, 5 assists, and 3.6 boards per game. It’s not much different from how the Sixers look without Embiid.
The Celtics were bad with the ball, turning it over 14 times about midway through the second quarter. They didn’t even get to the foul line until late in the third, finishing 13-17 on the evening. They shot 7-29 (24.1%) from three-point range and were out-rebounded, 33 to 28. Al Horford and Marcus Morris led the C’s with 14 points each.
At the end of the day, 22 Sixer turnovers hardly mattered, since Boston looked rudderless with Irving on the floor.
4) Season Splits
That’s it for the season series. The Sixers stole the finale to finish 1-3 against the Celtics this year.
This is how they did overall in those four games:
- 95.3 PPG
- 35.5 field goal %
- 27.3% from three
- 42.5 rebounds per game
- 20.5 assists
- 19 turnovers
- 22.8 fouls
Most of those numbers are bottom five or bottom ten compared to how they’ve played against other opponents. Against Toronto, for instance, they’ve put up 101.5 PPG while shooting 37.5%. It’s similar vs. Cleveland.
That’s not amazing, but it’s better than how they’ve done against Boston with Kyrie on the floor.
The difference between an 8 seed and 7 seed would be huge, assuming the Sixers make the playoffs. That starts with a sneaky-huge home game against Milwaukee on Saturday night, a team currently in the spot where Philly needs to be.