...And We're Back!
It wasn’t pretty but it sure was fun. The Boston Celtics hosted the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening game of the NBA 2018-19 season, and in between all the missed lay-ups and open shots, there were some very entertaining moments.
From the Sixers I saw a lot of rust. In last year’s Playoffs, Joel Embiid’s biggest weakness was illuminated on the big stage for all to see: lack of conditioning. He couldn’t stay on the court. He didn’t have the stamina. Last year that was understandable after all of the injuries and minutes restrictions he was saddled with. He had a whole off season to resolve those issues. They remain unresolved. Embiid was forced to the bench just 5 minutes into the first game of the regular season, not because of foul trouble, because he was gassed. When he was in the game he quite obviously wanted to make an impression, to take control, to dominate. But he looked slow and indecisive and it caused things like this to happen:
To be fair, he had his moments:
The Process finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and 2 blocks on 9-21 shooting in almost 37 minutes. Trust The Process? I guess so but I hope part of the process is to stop eating hamburgers during pre-game.
Luckily for the big man, he has a 6’10” point god out there with him. Second year phenom and defending Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons was on his own level in this game:
Despite what the above graphic states, The Fresh Prince finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks on 7-14 shooting. If his teammates could have made a lay-up or open jumper once in a while, he would have had 20 assists. This guy is good at basketball.
With all that being said, the Sixers trailed for most of the game and despite clawing their way back into it more than once, they were beaten soundly by an equally rusty Celtics squad. While the Philly shot a paltry 39% from the floor, Boston wasn’t much better making 43% of their shots. In the end the Celtics ran away with it and won by 18 with a final score of 105-87.
There were a few story lines for the Celtics including Jayson Tatum’s 23 points, 9 boards, 3 assists and a steal on 9-17 from the floor:
Maybe the most telling part of that stat line is that his 23 points were a game high for either team. Again, it wasn’t pretty but there were flashes from both sides and the Celtics walked away win a win and maybe even feel like they sent a message. There were plenty of bravado and alpha dog theatrics on display in this one but the execution of the most emphatic plays left much to desire. The Celtics hung their hats on two plays in particular, both targeting Joel Embiid. While both were successful(?), both were lucky and both went in off the backboard. Trust me, these guys weren’t calling bank.
First we have Tatum dancing all over the court with JoJo trying to stay in front of him:
And he winks at him? Come on man. Embiid stayed with him for the most part and at least made it a tough shot, which he banked in! Get outta here with the wink.
Then we have Jaylen Brown who never saw a monster that he didn’t try to attack. This is his M.O. Especially on opening night. Last year he tried to put LeBron James in the hoop:
The King didn’t want any part of that. But The Process? He wants to get involved in anything he sees. Here comes JB. And here comes JoJo with both hands.
Did Brown attack Embiid? Yeah. Did Embiid try to block it? Yeah. In fact he did block the dunk. It still went in, but he blocked it. Then JB stares at him and everybody goes crazy. The two biggest plays of the night for Boston, both against Embiid, both accidental banks. A little too much posturing and not enough posterizing.
But in honour of the dunk that wasn’t:
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.