Sixers fall to 0-2 in late loss to Celtics

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Boston 102, Philadelphia 92 – Box Score

Playoff expectations were in the air at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night for the Sixers home opener. A capacity crowd, featuring M. Night Shyamalan, Samuel L. Jackson, and Meek Mill courtside, were ready to see Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the rest of this deep roster flip the page on the Process era. Unfortunately, instead of a triumphant reintroduction to competitive basketball in the City of Brotherly Love, fans were treated to a whistle-happy referee show and a fourth-quarter collapse.

The only things louder than the “Trust the Process” chants were the “refs you suck” calls echoing through the arena in the second quarter. Both sides were the beneficiary of some questionable whistles, but the Celtics ended up attempting twice as many free throws as the Sixers on the evening (32 to 16). Nevertheless, the Sixers still found themselves ahead by 9 with four a half minutes left in the third quarter, thanks largely to hot shooting from their two starting guards. J.J. Redick and Jerryd Bayless combined to score 37 points on 8-13 shooting from downtown.

The lead wouldn’t last though, as Bayless and company had no success stopping Boston in the pick-and-roll in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving (21 points) and Shane Larkin (10 points on 4-5 shooting) sliced through the lane for easy scoring opportunities at will. Usually able to cover up for his teammates’ mistakes, Joel Embiid looked tired and a step slow all night. Boston outscored Philadelphia 33-20 in the final frame, giving the injury-riddled Celtics their first win of the year and dropping the Sixers to 0-2.

Rookie point guard Ben Simmons (it’s cool they announce him as a 6’10” point guard in pregame) tallied another double-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. He had more trouble in the half court than Wednesday night in Washington, as Boston wisely played extremely far off him; Simmons did not attempt a single outside jumper. With driving lanes generally cut off, Simmons shot just 4-11 from the field and committed 4 turnovers. As always though, he was absolutely lethal as a one-man fast break in the LeBron/Giannis mold.

In speaking about his minutes restrictions this week, Joel Embiid said something to the effect that he’s just going to play until he’s tired. Well, he probably shouldn’t have played Friday then, because he looked flat-out exhausted. Embiid didn’t make his first field goal until the third quarter and shot 0-6 from three, moving to 0-10 on the season. The big man finished 4-16 from the field, still getting 11 points and 14 rebounds because his D-level game is still better than some others. Embiid probably needs to operate more in the post until he gets his legs back under him, and his defensive rotations and mobility on that end also appear slow. Embiid will rest on the second night of the back-to-back Saturday night in Toronto.

Finally, Markelle Fultz struggled with 6 points on 2-9 shooting and committed 4 fouls in just 19 minutes. He did go 2-2 from the foul line, eliciting a cheer from the crowd; his form was still cover-your-eyes ugly. Nevertheless, in spite of his largely subpar play, Fultz was still responsible for the play of the night, spinning his way through the lane and dishing to Embiid for an easy dunk. Just picture a lot more of this over the next decade and you’ll feel better about Sixers basketball right now.


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