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The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics

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It was about a month ago that we saw the completion of the Process. When Philly traded for Jimmy Butler it was supposed to put the rest of the East on notice. They finally had their third piece, a star player at that, to officially get over the hump and be a real contender in the East. You see even their coach Brett Brown admits that everything he does is in an attempt to beat the Celtics, they talked about it on the broadcast yesterday, and once this moved happened Sixers fans were all in my mentions about it. Well guess what, seeing as how I have a brain I knew nothing would be all that different. You see it’s true they added a great player in Jimmy Butler but the fatal flaws of this team still exist. Trading away two shooters for a streaky player in Butler was a bonus in my mind. Sadly we had to wait a month to finally see these two teams play but I almost preferred it because it gave the Sixers time to gel. They got off to a great start with this new look team, playing a combination of teams that were about 50 games under .500 and Sixers fans were cumming their pants. It was adorable. Then came Christmas, their chance to finally show how different things are this time around, how the Celtics should fear playing the Sixers because now that the Process is complete and it’s time to take them seriously. And I’ll admit, things were a little different. The Celtics actually had to try, so I’ll give the Sixers that. This was not cakewalk like the playoffs or Opening Night was. Of course they still won, but it was not as easy as it was before, so I suppose that is good progress.

What we learned though is that Sixers fans can try and convince themselves all they want that things are different, that they are even in the same tier as the Celtics (for the record it’s TOR/MIL, then BOS/IND in a lower tier, then PHI), but anyone who watches these two teams play knows that simply isn’t how it is. The Sixers have a fundamental matchup problem with the Celtics, their lack of guard depth and overall Ben Simmons vs Brad problem is always going to hold them back. Embiid can go nuts, Jimmy Butler can score 20+, but this is a system issue. The Celtics know how to beat the Sixers system, and that is not going to change. Remember, the Process is complete now so this is what they are working with moving forward, and nothing we saw yesterday told us that’s going to be enough.

We now here Sixers fans talk about how this was no big deal, how it’s a regular season in December, and I won’t get on them too much for that because every single Celtics fan would be saying the same thing today had they lost. When these two teams play, it’s only a big deal if you win. Had PHI won we would of heard about they are a bad matchup in a playoff series and all this stuff, and now that the Celts won we hear “oh this doesn’t mean anything in terms of a series”. It’s fine, they are hurting right now because you know they really wanted this win. They wanted to chirp on Twitter against a team and a fanbase that has owned them on the internet for years now. Problem is, the Celtics stink right now and still beat them. That’s almost as bad as the time they destroyed this team in the playoffs without two main players.

So while Sixers fans had a disappointing Christmas, for the rest of us it was great. Who doesn’t love late game drama and heroic performances. We have a lot to get to so let’s dive right in.

The Good

– Imagine starting anywhere else but Kyrie Irving

One of the greatest Christmas performances in Celtics history, Kyrie was simply on another level last night. Really he’s been great ever since that team meeting which is exactly what I like to see from the leader of this team. He isn’t just talking the talk, he’s backing it up with his play on the floor and carrying this team right now. This Sixers team already had no chance of beating Boston without Kyrie, so what are they supposed to do if he plays? Stick Jimmy Butler on him? OK cool Kyrie went 8-14 for 19 points against Butler on the night and they were matched up on 29 possessions. By putting Butler on Kyrie you’re taking him off one of the wings, and if you do put Butler on a wing that forces JJ Redick or TJ McConnell to try and guard Kyrie. How do we think that goes? This is what I mean when I talk about how the Sixers just don’t match up well. Their lack of guard depth really hurts them on both ends.

The best part about Kyrie’s play as of late? He’s bringing it on both ends. Opponents were just 4-9 against Kyrie, he matched up with the bigger Wilson Chandler on 41 possessions and held him to just 2-7 shooting. He has the second lowest Drtg of any starter at 94.2. We know what he can do offensively, him carrying the Celtics on his back hitting gigantic shot after gigantic shot is nothing new. It’s his commitment to defense that has been the biggest surprise this season, and that’s something that we haven’t really seen at any point of his career so far.

– I don’t even want to think about where this team would be without Marcus Morris

If you thought I would be typing that sentence before the season began, you’re crazy. None of us saw this level of play coming, maybe a hot week or two here and there, but to have this type of consistency this late into the season is remarkable. We are now at the point where I am legit shocked when Mook misses a shot and I get angry when he actually doesn’t let it fly. Who ever thought we would get there?

He did a fantastic job on Simmons, guarding him on 35 possessions and surrendering just 2 points, and it’s that type of versatility that is so important to how Brad wants to play. He brings that attitude this team desperately needs, and his production has been the most consistent part of this team all year. I know he’s going to get a gigantic offer this summer, so jsut enjoy this while we can.

– You know who loves playing the Sixers? Jayson Tatum. I dunno if it’s the whole Draft Day trade thing, but he kills them almost every time they play and they have nobody that can stop him

Now it’s true that Tatum’s efficiency has struggled as of late, he did have another 38/14% night, but he still finished with 23/10 and is averaging 19/7 over his last 5 and 18.5/6.6 on 48% shooting in the month of December with 2.0 3PM.

The thing I needed to see with Tatum is if he was going to being that energy on the defensive end even with his shot not falling. That’s usually not what happens, we see Tatum miss a couple easy looks, get frustrated, and then slack off defensively. Well this was certainly not the case yesterday as Tatum had the lowest Drtg on the team and he was FANTASTIC against Jimmy Butler. On 53 possessions he held Butler to just 4-14 shooting with 3 TOs, and for me that’s the best part of his night. Yeah the scoring and rebounding were nice, but I really liked how he did not let his inefficient shooting negatively impact his defense. I would say that’s a step in the right direction.

– Shout out to the Celts for not getting killed on the glass, keeping it close with 56-55, and then destroying the Sixers in the paint with 50 points to their 30. Basically outside of Embiid the Sixers had nothing in that area, and it was nice to see that even though the Celts relied heavily on the three, when it mattered they got their shit together and dominated the paint.

– Another single digit turnover game will always make me smile.

– We give him a lot of shit, mostly because he deserves it, but I thought Terry Rozier was great in this game. The shot selection was suspect at times, but he was solid off the bench with 10/5 on 3-6 shooting and I thought he really have them a spark on both ends in his 19 minutes. He certainly outplayed any Sixers reserve guard which you expect, but it was nice to see him play well in a big game and come through when this team needed him. He didn’t have a TO which is always a great sign, and hopefully this is the start of an upward trend for him.

– This team’s identity is defense, and the defense they played in the fourth quarter and OT is why they won this game. Here are how the Sixers  main guys fared over that span:

Joel Embiid: 1-4

JJ Redick: 0-6

Ben Simmons: 1-4

Jimmy Butler: 1-5

PHI shot 24/23% with 7 TOs

That my friends is how you nut the fuck up and earn a win. Embiid was destroying Al and this entire team almost all night, but when it mattered most he owned that matchup. Embiid was gassed, couldn’t stop turning it over, and was essentially a nonfactor for the most important part of the game. I say let him drop 36 all he wants if he never is going to show up when it matters most. Great long con by Al there.

The Bad

– As always, it was not perfect. In fact some parts of this game were downright pathetic. For example, what the hell was going on in that third quarter? Why does it feel like the Celtics are struggling coming out of the break recently? The Sixers dropped 38 points, shot 60/55% and boom the Celts lead was gone just like that. Part of that reason was their shot selection in the third, it was the exact way you see this team lose games. Look at all these long twos, it disgusts me

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It was here that this team became very frustrating to watch. It’s like they suddenly want to settle and take low percentage looks when the Sixers had already shown they could not stop them at the rim. We have a few shots during this stretch that I am going to highlight in a later section, but for fucks sake can we not do this kind of shit?

– Listen the truth is for 95% of this game, Al stunk. A guy who usually matches up well with Embiid, he was getting completely dominated to start this game and basically whenever Embiid touched the ball. I don’t know if that was all part of his rope a dope plan, or his knee, or whatever, but I can’t sit here and tell you he played well for the majority of this game. His jumper was clearly off, which tends to happen when you miss a shit ton of time, but 2-10 with half of his shots coming from behind the arc is in no way acceptable. He did lead the team with 5 assists so that part of his game showed up, but we’re going to need Al to be much better moving forward, I think we can all agree on that.

– No Robert Williams? At all? Really? What the hell was that?

– We make a lot of fuss about all the winning plays we see from Marcus Smart, well his technical in OT might have been the dumbest thing he’s done all season. That is NOT a winning play, in fact I would call that a losing play. Honestly what even was that? First of all, Simmons was just being aggressive, you want to bang bodies fine, but to so blatantly shove him at a critical moment in a close game is inexcusable. He is very lucky Kyrie saved him, because that would have been one of the dumbest plays of the entire season so far.

– Yikes Gordon

The Bad

– It’s no secret, the play of both Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward has not been great. In fact it’s been pretty abysmal which is kind of a problem. Both were pretty bad again yesterday, with Hayward going 2-6, Jaylen going 2-7 and combined they had just 9 points. Jaylen was a team worst -14, and we’re at the point now where maybe you don’t expect Hayward to be vintage Gordon, but you certainly expect him to be better than he was. I mean it’s past Christmas and we’re still getting this inconsistent play, which certainly isn’t ideal.

Defensively, opponents shot 6-11 against Hayward and 3-5 against Jaylen, and that’s where it really hurts. You want to struggle offensively, fine, but you have to not be a liability on the other end, which right now they both are.

Then there was shit like this shot from Jaylen. Not only is it a low percentage shot, but for someone who hadn’t been able to buy a bucket, I’m not sure what the thought process was here

Given the moment and the struggles the Celtics were already experiencing in that third quarter, this shit was infuriating.

– 14-41 from three. That was gross.

The Celtics schedule is about to get a whole lot harder, with teams like HOU/MEM/SA/MIN up next, and we remember how the last West Coast trip went. That’s why a game like this was important, it helps the Celts have some momentum after beating a good team because they have no time to dick around with how well both TOR/MIL are playing. As of today they sit just 3 back in the loss column, but we need to see them go 3-0 or 2-1 on this three game trip before another 4 game homestand. Beating the Sixers is always fun, but that’s light work.

At the end of the day they proved what we already knew, so now let’s see them build off it.