By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
A rough-and-tumble physical (read as: downright ugly) affair in Philadelphia welcomed the Celtics and 76ers to the 2019-20 NBA season, and it was a contest that ultimately benefitted the Sixers by way of a 107-93 final at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.
Boston opened the night strong, and led by Jayson Tatum, as the third-year pro played the entire first quarter, and dropped a game-high eight points for a 25-20 Boston lead in the opening 12 minutes of the new season.
But Philadelphia grabbed a hold of the lead in the final moments of the second quarter, taking a one-point lead into halftime, and used a foul-heavy third quarter to put the Celtics’ backs against the wall in enemy territory.
It was in that third quarter, which featured a staggering 19 fouls between the rivals, that Philadelphia took over by way of a 28-20 scoring advantage, and with Joel Embiid downright terrorizing the Celtics.
Trailing by entering the fourth quarter, the Celtics continued to chip away at Philadelphia’s lead, bringing themselves within four before back-to-back makes from deep put the C’s down by 10 with 8:55 left in the game. It was perhaps the worst timing for the Celtics, too, as the Sixers had makes on just three of their 24 attempts from deep before the consecutive daggers.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens called a timeout after the back-to-back three’s, but the Celtics never got their offense back on track, as the Green lacked offensive rhythm, and lacked any sort of flow when it came to creating legit scoring looks against Philly.
One of the biggest problems for the Celtics in this one? Their failure to knock down three throws.
Awarded 34 free throws, the Celtics converted on just 20, leaving a whopping 14 points on the board. These were some brutal misses — Enes Kanter’s two misses in the third quarter loomed large at that point in the game — and really made the difference by the night’s end. It was especially damaging in the third quarter, with the Celtics going just 3-for-8 at the line.
Walker struggled in his Celtic debut, converting on just four of his 18 attempts from the field, and finishing the night with 12 points in 34:15 of action. He wasn’t alone, though, as Tatum finished 8-for-22, while Jaylen Brown was unable to get going due to early foul-trouble, and finished with just eight points.
Gordon Hayward, meanwhile, led all Celtics with 25 points in the losing effort.
Al Horford made his Philly debut against his former team, and finished with 16 points and three assists in 31:11.
The Celtics will head home for Friday’s home opener against the Toronto Raptors.