Jayson Tatum

Sixers-Celtics observations: Embiid struggles in home-opening loss

usa-joel-embiid-76ers-celtics.jpg
USA Today Images

Sixers-Celtics observations: Embiid struggles in home-opening loss

BOX SCORE

The Sixers' home opener Friday night was spoiled by the Celtics, 102-92. The Sixers led after three, but the Celtics broke an 84-84 tie with a 6-0 spurt to change the momentum. The Celtics outscored the Sixers, 33-20, in the fourth, led by an 18-8 run down the stretch.

With the loss, the Sixers fall to 0-2 on the season. Boston is 1-2.
 
• The game was dominated by the sound of whistles. The Sixers were called for 31 personal fouls, the Celtics 24. Robert Covington fouled out while T.J. McConnell, Dario Saric and Aron Baynes had five apiece. The Celtics shot 22 of 32 from the line compared to 12 for 16 by the Sixers.
 
• Embiid (11 points, 14 rebounds) didn’t score his first basket until the third quarter. He shot 0 for 6 from long range, making it 0 for 10 on the season. He doesn’t need a reminder of his struggles, either.

“My three-point shot is trash so I’ve got to work on that,” he said before the game.

Embiid was one of the last three players to leave the court after shootaround, going through three-point drills.
 
• Ben Simmons followed up his debut with another double-double: 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in 37 minutes.
 
• Markelle Fultz (6 points) drew a foul against Jayson Tatum in the No. 1 vs. No. 3 pick matchup. Fultz got the better of Tatum on that second-quarter play, but what he did next was more significant. He went to the line and made … both free throws (see video).

What a difference a game makes.
 
• This is sharp-shooting JJ Redick’s version of running the break: dash to the three-point line and pull up for a shot. It worked. (He shot 4 for 7 for the night.) Later on, Redick got to the arc and kicked it to Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot in the corner. Luwawu-Cabarrot drove the basket and scored.
 
• The Sixers got Baynes in foul trouble early (three in the first quarter) and quickly took the 6-foot-10, 265-pound presence out of the game. The team was against Baynes, including 6-2 McConnell who drew a whistle.

• Opening night celebrity sightings included Meek Mill, Samuel L. Jackson and M. Night Shyamalan. The Eagles showed their support, too, as the ceremonial bell ringers.

Sixers-Celtics thoughts: Blockbuster trade subjects highlight home opener

sixers-game-note-slide-1020.jpg
USA Today Images/NBCSP

Sixers-Celtics thoughts: Blockbuster trade subjects highlight home opener

Sixers (0-1) vs. Celtics (0-2)
7 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports app. Pregame Live at 6. 

The Sixers (0-1) lost their season opener to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday in a fashion that has become quite familiar in recent years.

The Sixers stood toe-to-toe with the Wiz for most of the night, fell behind late, and then made a run in the final minutes only to come up short in a 120-115 defeat.

While an admirable effort against one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams, JJ Redick made it clear that moral victories are no longer acceptable (see story).

Now the Sixers are ready to host the Boston Celtics in front of what is expected to be a raucous crowd for their home opener at the Wells Fargo Center (see story).

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

• What was all that chatter about a minutes restriction? Joel Embiid went well over what was expected to be his allotted time limit in the season opener when he played 26:57.

Afterward, both Embiid and Sixers head coach Brett Brown explained that this season, the center’s minutes will be within more of a “range” and follow a “plan.” Essentially, how much the big man plays will depend on his stamina and the flow of the game.

Embiid managed 18 points, 13 rebounds and three assists in the opener. However, he admitted there were areas that need improvement (he did commit four turnovers and was late on some defensive rotations).

• You had to like what you saw from Ben Simmons against the Wizards. He scored 18 points on 7 of 15 shooting to go along with 10 boards, five assists, two steals, one block and a single turnover.

More importantly, the point guard played with poise and conviction as he set up the Sixers’ offense.

Sixers fans might not like the fact that several of the team’s young players have missed what would have been their rookie seasons. However, there is something to be said about the advancement of a guy that has been around an NBA team for an entire year before playing a game.

• Before we get any further, let’s hope for a speedy and healthy recovery for Gordon Hayward.

By now you know the All-Star forward suffered a gruesome leg injury just minutes into his Celtics' debut.

The C’s will certainly miss his production and leadership this season.

• With Hayward now sidelined, there has been even more attention focused on Kyrie Irving’s transition to the Celtics. 

The star point guard started with a much-hyped return to face his former Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving played well in that one with a double-double of 22 points and 10 assists, but he couldn’t connect on a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer.

Irving followed that effort up with a dud in a loss to the Bucks. He scored 17 points on a rough 7 of 25 shooting, in addition to just three assists and three turnovers.

The Sixers can expect the scoring machine to try and regain his offensive rhythm right from the opening tip.

• Hey, remember when the Sixers and Celtics made a blockbuster trade involving multiple first-round picks and it was all anyone could talk about? Yeah, seems like forever ago now.

Just before June’s draft, the Sixers sent the No. 3 pick and a future first-rounder to the Celtics in exchange for the No. 1 selection. The Sixers took that opportunity to select Markelle Fultz while Boston snagged Jayson Tatum, and the rest is history.

Well, much-scrutinized history. The two rookies will forever be linked and their production compared.

After an injury-filled offseason and camp, Fultz acquitted himself well in his debut. He shot 5 for 9 from the field for 10 points with three rebounds, an assist and a highlight block. Of course, there were also those awkward looking free throws (see story).

On the other side, Tatum has had it about as rough as possible in his first pair of NBA games when it comes to matchups. He started off with LeBron James in the Celtics’ opener before coming back the next night and facing Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

That hasn’t been the best experience defensively, as both James and Antetokounmpo went off. But few men on the planet can handle those players.

Tatum has been productive in his first two games, particularly on the backboard. He’s gobbled up an impressive 22 rebounds to pair with 22 points in two games.

With Fultz playing limited minutes off the bench, it would appear Tatum has the upper hand when it comes to opportunity. But we’ll see what the No. 1 pick has in store for his first regular-season game in front of the home fans.

• Robert Covington made sure that you won’t forget about him this season.

In search of a contract extension, Covington opened the 2017-18 season with a 29-point outburst against the Wizards that included seven threes. 

We’ll see what he can do for an encore.

• The Sixers took one of the four matchups last season with the top-seeded Celtics. Their lone win came in the final meeting, a 105-99 victory on March 19. Dario Saric led the way in that one with 23 points.

Sixers test Ben Simmons' defensive versatility in loss to Celtics

Sixers test Ben Simmons' defensive versatility in loss to Celtics

BOX SCORE

Ben Simmons is not letting himself off the hook for his mistakes. 

After assessing his performance in the preseason opener a seven out of 10, he cracked down on his errors in the Sixers’ 110-102 loss to the Celtics on Friday (see observations).

“Tonight, six or five,” Simmons graded himself. “Too many turnovers, obviously, too many offensive fouls on (Aron) Baynes.”

Simmons committed a game-high five turnovers, compared to just one against the Grizzlies. He accounted for over 20 percent of the team’s total 24 giveaways. Simmons’ early foul trouble (four total) factored into that. He was whistled for two offensive fouls against Baynes while trying to score on the big man at the basket. 

“We’ve got to continue to grow the jump stop, avoiding the collision and coming into a maybe more controlled environment,” Brett Brown said. 

Simmons scored eight points in 23 minutes (see highlights). He shot 3 for 8 from the field and struggled at the line (2 for 6). Brown is encouraging Simmons to shoot more jumpers throughout the preseason.

The Sixers are learning something new about Simmons each game. On Friday, they studied how he matches up defending smaller players. Simmons started the game on power forward Jayson Tatum. He switched to small forward Gordon Hayward, shooting guard Jaylen Brown and was later tasked with standout point guard Kyrie Irving. 

There was a seven-inch height differential between Irving and Simmons, not to mention six years of experience, four All-Star appearances and an NBA championship. 

“It was good to be matched up against a great point guard like him and get a feel for that,” Simmons said. 

Irving noticed areas of improvement for Simmons in that matchup. The 2011 No. 1 pick also saw potential in his 2016 counterpart. 

“It’s going to be an adjustment [for Simmons],” Irving said. “Understanding that when he’s at the point guard role and he’s there, he’s going to be going against some dynamic players, including myself. 

“He did an incredible job of running the team tonight. He’s a great young player. He’s going to continue to get better. Coach Brown’s putting the ball in his hands, so when you have the ball in your hands, you’re able to make some decisions. But on the defensive end, it’s our job to take advantage of that.” 

Simmons could get another look at these same matchups in a matter of a few days. The Sixers play the Celtics again on Monday in Boston.