By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Wednesday night, the Celtics sent a statement to the rest of the NBA with a dominant 128-102 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in game two of their first round playoff matchup. Boston was led by Jayson Tatum, who became the youngest Celtics player in franchise history to score 30 points in consecutive playoff games (surpassing Larry Bird).
While Philadelphia did establish some dominance early, Boston was able to turn defense into offense and run away with the game in the middle quarters.
Joel Emiid made a point of establishing himself early. His nine points at the first commercial break matched the Celtics team total. That, combined with the C’s shooting 1-for-6 from three allowed Philly to open up a 15-9 lead.
The Sixers continued to feel it from the floor, hitting 10 of their first 12 shots. Meanwhile the Celtics struggles continued, bottoming out at 4-of-15 shooting as the Green fell behind by double digits.
In the final minutes of the quarter the Celtics changed their approach, working the ball inside with more frequency and relying on a two-man game between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The result was the duo scoring the Celtics’ final 13 points of the frame, hitting five straight shots, culminating in a Tatum buzzer-beating half-court three, which trimmed the Celtics end-of-quarter deficit to six points, 33-27.
The Celtics kept the energy up coming out for the second quarter. With every starter but Tatum resting, Boston erased what had been a 14-point Sixer lead in eight minutes with a 29-11 run. That turned into a 15-1 run at one point as the Celtics extended out to a 52-41 lead with four minutes to go in the frame. Boston took a 65-57 lead into the half.
At the start of the second half, the Celtics had the Sixers looking scared. A 9-2 run to start the third quarter was capped off by a Jaylen Brown 360 dunk.
That seemed to be the kill shot, as the Sixers never regained footing. Boston shot 50% from the floor in the quarter, while Philly went an ice cold 4-for-19. A 10-3 run to close the quarter put the Celtics up 98-75 heading into the fourth.
Brad Stevens allowed the Celtics bench to handle most of the final quarter, with young players like Romeo Langord and Robert Williams getting valuable playoff experience. Tacko Fall got on the floor with just under three minutes to play.
Tatum led the Celtics in scoring with 33 points, his second-straight 30-plus point game. Kemba Walker pitched in 22 points, with Jaylen Brown’s 20 rounding out the top three.
It was a team effort picking up the slack on the boards left by Gordon Hayward, the team’s leading rebounder in the bubble. Enes Kanter led the way with nine, Grant Williams had six, Brown and Tatum each pitched in five. Tatum also paced the Celtics with five assists.
The Sixers once again attempted to lean on Joel Embiid, who scored a game-high 34 points. But for the second game in a row, the support wasn’t there, and Philadelphia was -21 with their superstar center on the floor.
With the win, the Celtics grab a 2-0 lead in the series as it ‘shifts back to Philadelphia.’ Game three tips off Friday night at 6:30 p.m. Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell will have the coverage starting with a 6 p.m. pregame on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com