BOSTON – Coaches and players talk all the time about the importance of playing with great energy and effort defensively.
But what about on offense?
When it’s not there, you get games like the one we saw on Thursday night as Philadelphia held off a late surge by Boston to defeat the Celtics 89-80.
Now the knee-jerk reaction is to praise Philadelphia for playing a great game defensively.
And to their credit, they did a lot of good things defensively.
But many of Boston’s struggles offensively were of the self-inflicted wound variety.
“I just didn’t think we played hard enough on offense,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens who prefaced his statement by praising the Sixers as being a good team defensively. “We played hard on defense. And it’s, I guess, a unique game when you’re playing hard on one end of the floor but not on the other.
Stevens added, “we were very sloppy (offensively), over-dribbled, dribbled didn’t take us anywhere, not moving the ball, not getting to spots.”
Celtics guard Marcus Smart, filling in for Irving, had similar thoughts on how the Celtics played against the Sixers (21-20).
“We need to play harder on both ends,” Smart said. “We were leaving guys on islands and forcing everybody to fend for themselves. On the offensive end we got real stagnant, trying to find it. Instead of being basketball players we became robots.”
Robots void of any plan or script on how to compete effectively at both ends of the floor.
Said Smart: “We just acted like we didn’t know what we were doing out there.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia.
Joel Embiid: Not long after Thursday night’s announcement that he was being named a starter in next month’s All-star game, Embiid went out and played like one. He was as dominant as we’ve ever seen him against the Celtics, tallying a double-double of 26 points and 16 rebounds to go with six assists and two blocked shots.
Jaylen Brown: It wasn’t until the fourth quarter did Brown and the Celtics, start to play with a sense of urgency. Brown had 12 points for the game, six of which came in the fourth quarter.
Shane Larkin: There were more minutes than usual for Larkin to take, and for the most part he made the most of his opportunity. Larkin’s energy was one of the keys to Boston rallying back into the game in the second half, as he finished with eight points on 3-for-6 shooting with two steals in 23 minutes with only Marcus Morris (27 minutes) seeing more action off the Celtics’ bench.
Marcus Morris: On a night when the Celtics needed someone to step their game up offensively with Kyrie Irving out, Morris came closer than any other Celtic to doing that. He had 14 points on 4-for-9 shooting. But just as important was Morris driving to the basket and being rewarded with free throw attempts – the kind of thing that Irving does when on the floor. The scoring, getting to the line four times in addition to grabbing six rebounds, were all important factors in Boston getting within striking distance in the fourth quarter.
Celtics offense: Using Kyrie Irving being out with a sore left shoulder is too convenient an excuse for the struggles Boston had offensively. Boston didn’t take care of the ball (19 turnovers), didn’t play with force at both ends of the floor were bigger factors. But the biggest factor of them all was Philadelphia’s defense which played at a consistently high level most of the night.